Minna

byausfet©

It was just like any other Wednesday night. My seventeen year old daughter was in her bedroom creating a make-up tutorial for her Youtube channel, my fourteen year old son was having a shower, and my husband was trying to seduce me.

Sixteen years into my relationship with my husband – and you'll surmise from the dates that he's probably not Sadie's father, and you would be correct – sex was not what it once was. Gone were the days of awkward fumbling and insecurity. Here were the days where we'd push boundaries, trying things I would have been far too insecure to try ten years ago, and enjoying our little romps more than ever.

We lived in a three bedroom townhouse and with two kids, discretion remained a necessity. Both Jon and I understood this, and somehow it had become part of the game. As I browsed the internet on my phone and tried to decide whether or not to buy a set of pillows, Jon put his hand up my shirt and remarked that I should save some money and just let him sleep on my chest each night.

'Go away you pervert,' I laughed.

Jon grinned and put both hands up my shirt. 'I love your boobies, Minna. Pull them out and show me while the kids aren't here.'

'Aaron will be out of the shower any minute.'

'Bullshit. He's fourteen. We all know what he's doing in the bathroom and it's not washing his hair.' Jon lifted my shirt up and inspected my chest. 'Come on. Pull them out of your bra and show me.'

At forty-one, I didn't feel attractive to anyone but my husband. I'm the product of a Greek father and an Australian mother, and in my younger years my appearance was frequently described as 'exotic'. I have olive skin and wavy dark brown hair, clear green eyes and a sprinkling of freckles across my rather large nose. My ethnic background has proved a puzzle for many people, and guesses have ranged from 'Aboriginal' to 'Mediterranean' to 'Arab'.

Once upon a time I had a curvaceous, if a little bit pudgy, figure. Nowadays I'm just overweight. I'm two dress sizes above what I should be and I'm not happy about it. Unfortunately the self inflicted misery is mirrored by a love of cake and a husband who claims he loves me the way I am, so I'm yet to maintain motivation to diet for longer than three days.

I pulled up my shirt, lifted the front of my bra, and showed Jon my tits. Any ideas I might have harboured about buying new bedding was pushed to the side as my husband kneaded and kissed the soft flesh of my breasts. I couldn't help but laugh. I loved this man so much that it sometimes seemed unbearable.

Unlike me, Jon seemed to have avoided the pitfalls of ageing. Sure, there was a little bit of extra weight and sag, but I've always thought men remain attractive long after a woman's beauty has bloomed and then faded. He's the State Manager for a large building company, and he manages to seem both down to earth and professional. That old idiom about being able to communicate with people from all walks of life? That's Jon in a nutshell.

'Fuck, I love tits,' he muttered.

'Horny?'

'I'd fuck a black snake if someone held it's head.'

Jon started his career as a labourer and he's retained a colourful lexicon.

'You really know how to make a woman feel special,' I said.

'You know what I meant, Min,' he said, glancing up. His blue eyes fixed on mine. 'I love you more than anything else in this world.'

I kissed him. 'I know.'

Our romantic moment was interrupted by his work phone ringing. His phones, both work and personal, were always ringing. People were always calling him. They want to discuss business, or life, or catch up for lunch at the pub.

Jon took the phone outside to our courtyard, where he normally conducts calls while walking around the paved area and smoking a cigarette. I put my tits back in my bra, pulled my shirt down, and was about to resume browsing for new pillows when there was a knock at the door.

I straightened my hair and went to answer, confused as to who it might be. Standing on the other side of the security door was a middle aged woman in corporate clothing, with her blonde hair pulled back into a bun. Despite her attractive outfit, her face was strained.

'Minna?' she asked.

'Yes. What's this about?' I asked. I had no idea who this woman was, or what she might be doing at my doorstep.

'I'm Heather.' She peered behind me, into my empty living room. 'I'm sorry to just show up unannounced, but I was wondering if I could talk to you in private for a few minutes?'

I was immediately suspicious. 'Only if you tell me what this is about.'

'Your husband,' Heather said simply.

'My husband?' I echoed. I surveyed my house. Aaron was still in the shower, Sadie was still in her room, and judging from the smell of cigarette smoke wafting though, Jon was still in the courtyard. I pondered the possibilities, and eventually asked; 'Are you having an affair with him?'

She laughed humourlessly. 'No.'

'Then why are you here?' I asked, not sure I wanted to know the answer.

Sixteen years I've been with Jon. You think either of us have been perfect over that time? God no. We have both stumbled and faltered. He has come home from business trips higher than a kite. I have spent money that wasn't in our budget to be spent. Amphetamine use and overspending, too things that might have troubled a weaker couple, but we've made it through. I wondered if we would make it through what this woman was about to tell me.

'I don't want to tell you in front of an audience,' Heather said. 'I'm really sorry to be doing this to you. Please, just give me five minutes of your time, and then I promise you, you'll never see me again.'

I stepped outside the door. 'We can talk on the driveway. That's as far as I'm going.'

Heather nodded, stood aside, and let me lead the way. Jon and I lived in a small complex of four townhouses and three villas. There was no onsite manager, and most residences are owner-occupied.

When were in the relative privacy of the main driveway, I saw that Heather had a manila folder in her hands. Somehow, I just knew there was something in that folder relating to Jon. An arrest warrant? Was she with the police? I knew Jon still sometimes took drugs on the sly. I hated drugs. Hated, hated, hated, hated them. Oh, I know some people can use them sensibly, but most can't. I've seen too many lives destroyed. To keep the peace, Jon pretends he never uses anything, and I pretend I don't know what he's up to.

'I had a pap smear a few weeks ago,' Heather said. 'My GP suggested I get a STD test done at the same time. I just laughed. I've been married for twelve years and I've never cheated. I'm a personal assistant, and my God, the things I've heard executives say to justify their infidelity just make me want to vomit. Their wives never understand them. The chances of me straying, particularly with one of them? Zilch.'

'I'm a personal assistant, too, and I hear the same thing.'

Heather gave me a small smile. 'They must learn from each other.'

'It's a pity they don't learn to tidy up after themselves,' I joked, thinking of filthy lunchrooms and dirty business shirts shoved into cupboards, as if there was some magical fairy that was going to come along and tidy everything up.

'They're probably too important,' Heather said sardonically. She gave me another, more genuine, smile, before she thought the better of developing a friendly relationship with me, and her face once again tightened. 'I should keep this short and sweet. All I'll say is that my Doctor banged on and on about a STD test so much I ended up agreeing. And, as it turns out, I tested positive for chlamydia.'

'I'm so sorry. So your husband... had an affair?'

'Yes.' She handed me the manila folder. 'With a man. Or, should I say, men. Honestly? I wouldn't tell you if the chlamydia wasn't involved. My husband tells me Jon loves you, and it would gut him if you found out and ended the marriage, but the way I look at it is this; if they aren't going to use protection, then fuck them and their secrets. You don't go risking your wife's health.'

I took the folder and I knew, I just knew, that there would be photos inside. My hands shook. I didn't want to take the folder, and I certainly didn't want to see the evidence, but I knew I'd have to inspect the contents. I knew that if I didn't, I'd forever be wondering 'what was in there'.

'How did you find out my husband was involved?' I asked.

Heather gave me another, strained smile. 'Would you believe my husband's so desperate to salvage our marriage he'd do anything?' she asked. 'I still can't believe it myself. I keep asking him 'why would you do this if you loved me?' but he has no answers.'

'Is he gay?'

'He says not. He says both he, and Jon, and a lot of the men are bisexual. They would have told us, but...'

'...we wouldn't understand,' I whispered.

She nodded. 'Those were his exact words.'

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jon is impossible to fight with because he never wants to fight with me. Every argument runs the same course; I get angry and yell, while he attempts to gently placate me. I tell him I hate him, he tells me he loves me. I throw a glass and break it, he gets the dustpan and brush.

Marriage and love are funny things. You learn how much you can love someone, and you learn how much you can despise them. The first time your heart is broken is the hardest. The second time is just a little less difficult. Eventually you reach a point where you realise you can't possibly hate your husband as much as you love him, and that divorce just isn't an option.

After Heather left, I took the manila folder into the downstairs toilet. When the kids were young the bathroom was both Jon and I's escape room. The 'sanity room' we used to call it. We were both guilty of announcing to all and sundry that we needed to shit, then locking ourselves in the loo and reading the newspaper or a magazine until we felt ready to face the children again.

Those days are long gone; the kids are now as keen to avoid us as much as possible, and it's been years since I've been to someone else's bathroom and seen a stack of magazines or newspapers. The advent of smart phones put an end to that, didn't they?

My widowed grandfather used to have dirty magazines hidden in the newspapers in his bathroom. He used to hide them in the politics section. He didn't have Playboy or anything like that, no, his magazines were far more graphic. One of my cousins let me in on the secret, and right from the moment I saw a naked woman on all fours, I was fascinated. I'd lock myself in his bathroom and with shaking hands and a galloping heart, I'd browse through Grandpa's dirty magazines.

After I locked myself in the bathroom with the photos of Jon I felt all of the old anxiety, but none of the eager anticipation. With sweaty hands I opened the folder and stared at the pictures. They were... they were graphic, weren't they? I felt like I'd been slugged in the stomach but I also felt an incredible sense of disbelief. Literally ten minutes ago Jon had been playing with my tits.

As for the frequency of sex, well, I thought that had been quite good. I rarely knocked him back when he wanted sex. Two, three, four times a week we'd be fucking or sucking or I'd be jerking him off. Even when I'd been sick, or tired, or stressed, or really would have rather be doing literally anything else in the world, I'd planted a smile on my face and tried to act enthusiastic.

I felt stupid, ugly, pathetic. I couldn't cry, not yet, because if the kids saw me weeping they'd demand answers, but it was hard to hold the emotion at bay.

I shoved the photos back in the folder and went out to the kitchen. Sadie was still in her bedroom, but Aaron was rummaging through the cupboard for something to eat, and Jon was sitting at the breakfast bar talking to him about school. Neither Sadie nor Aaron are the slightest bit interested in their education and neither will do an ounce of schoolwork unless they're cornered like a rat in a hole. Other parents brag about their children's academic achievements left, right and centre. I'm just happy if mine manage to pass more subjects than they fail.

'Dad, not only did I pass, I got a C plus,' Aaron was saying as he opened a pack of corn chips. 'Get off my back. Nobody else's parents care that they fail.'

'According to Facebook, everyone else's kids are passing,' I remarked, keeping the manila folder firmly tucked under my arm. I turned on the kettle. 'Want a cup of coffee?'

'No, I'll get a lemonade,' Aaron replied. 'And I'm sorry to break it to you Mum, but everyone lies on Facebook.'

'I'd love a cuppa,' Jon remarked.

I put the manila folder on the bench next to the kettle as I collected two mugs, coffee, sugar, milk and spoons.

'Where's Sadie?' I asked.

'Making herself look like a whore,' Aaron said through a mouthful of chips.

'Better than being one,' I replied darkly.

My son stared at me as if I were crazy. 'Whatever, Mum. I'm going to game. Don't interrupt me for the next forty minutes, or my team will get mad. You're always the one who interrupts.'

'Yeah, that crazy little thing called 'dinner' gets in the way every time, doesn't it?' I replied, watching him depart up the stairs.

God, kids. So much fucking work and this is what you get left with; a daughter who still hasn't even bothered getting her learner's permit at an age where other kids already have their licenses, and a son who would rather game than eat. Other parents seem to breeze through raising their offspring, but for me, it's always been a battle. I've had a mediocre working life, I can't satisfy my husband, and my kids are less than perfect.

The kettle boiled and I finished making the coffees. It was just Jon, I, and a folder of pictures of my husband sucking some bloke off and getting fucked up the arse.

'Are we going to take up where we left off?' Jon asked.

'I'm sorry?'

He lifted his shirt up as a hint. 'Show me your boobies. We won't see either of those two again this evening.'

I didn't reply.

'C'mon, Minna,' he implored. 'Show me your tits.'

I dumped sugar and coffee in each mug. 'I have literally no idea why you'd want to see me topless,' I replied flatly.

'We can start with you being my wife, and being the sexiest woman alive, and having the best tits I've ever seen,' he said. 'We can follow it up with me wanting to have sex with you, and you probably wanting to have sex with me.'

'I don't want to have sex with you,' I said.

Jon paused.

'Is everything alright?' he asked.

'Sure. Everything's hunky dory,' I said, trying to keep my tone neutral.

I finished making the coffees and put a mug in front of him. He was on one side of the kitchen bench, I was on the other. We were less than a metre apart. I stared at him and tried to comprehend what was going through his head.

Jon reached out and touched my face. 'Min, what's wrong?'

I didn't flinch. 'I think you should go suck a dick,' I whispered.

He frowned. 'What are you talking about?'

'That folder.' I pointed in it's direction. My voice was still so quiet it could barely be heard. 'There are photos of you in there. As I said to you, you should go suck a dick. Because if you think that I am ever, ever going to contemplate fucking you again, you have another think coming.'

Jon froze in shock. He was trying to figure out how I knew. He was probably trying to figure out how I got the photos. Maybe he was even trying to figure out who was in the photos with him.

My eyes filled with tears.

'I hate you,' I whispered.

Then I ran to our bedroom, closed the door, and fell onto the bed weeping.

I thought Jon would probably come in and try and cuddle me. I'd tell him to fuck off, he'd stay quiet but try and be affectionate, and I'd spend hours sobbing while he spent hours trying to tell me how he'd fix things. That was the usual way of things, wasn't it?

But Jon didn't come into the bedroom. He didn't approach me in any way, shape or form. He instead picked up his car keys and headed to the garage.

I thought that he might be leaving me. Leaving me for his boyfriend. God, God, God, what a thought. My tears came thick and fast, leaving the pillow sodden. There was a knock on the door maybe half an hour into my crying, and thought I hoped it was Jon, it was only Sadie asked if I could drive her to Mount Tamborine on the weekend. She'd received a last minute request to do make-up for a wedding.

'Sure,' I said. 'Text me the details.'

I never say 'no' to Sadie. She's failing just about every subject she's taking, she can't drive, she has no proper job, and absolutely no marketable skills other than her make-up artistry. With the brush and blush, she's a wizard. She transforms women from ordinary to extraordinary.

Maybe I should ask her to transform me. Make me someone interesting and worthwhile. Make me someone Jon wants to love.

Shit, the photos. Were they still in the manila folder, on the kitchen bench? The moment Sadie was safely in her room, I crept down the stairs. There was no folder. That could only mean one thing; Jon took it with him.

My coffee, now stone cold, was sitting on the bench. I heated it up and took my coffee and phone back to my bedroom and started investigating the realities of divorce. I checked our bank account balances, our mortgage, and our child support commitments. There would only be Aaron to fight over. Sadie isn't Jon's, she's mine, for good and for better, and there's some evil comfort I find in that. Jon will miss Sadie. He's known her almost all her life.

I met my husband at a service station that was also a truck stop, in the middle of a cold winter's night. I was a single mother – and there was nobody to blame for my predicament but me, I'd been quite foolish with contraception and Sadie's father was rather unpredictably annoyed with my pregnancy and desire to continue it through – and had been driving around the boondocks trying to get my restless child to sleep. She'd been awake for hours, and there was no sign of that changing. When she shit herself, I pulled into the truck stop and asked the service station attendant for the key to the toilets.

That's where I met Jon; outside the loos, me carrying a shit stained baby. He must've seen the exhaustion and frustration on my face because he didn't ask if I wanted help, he just gave it. He helped me change her while she wailed and wailed, tears sliding down her skinny cheeks – neither of my babies had that fat, healthy glow, both were long and lean, another tick in the parenting 'fail' box – and talked to me about life.

Jon was a twenty-one year old labourer with a bad case of insomnia. He'd been at the truck stop bathrooms because he'd desperately needed to pee. I thought he was adorable, and he obviously liked me, because despite my child, he'd asked me for my number. We went out on our first date just days later.

Jon was living with his parents, so it was at my house that most of our dates took place. He didn't have much money, and I had even less. I was living in a small studio apartment and Sadie slept in a cot alongside my bed. We'd go for a walk along the Brisbane River in the afternoon, make and eat dinner, then try and get Sadie to sleep. We'd make love quietly and under covers in my bed, mindful not to wake the baby.

We rented a two bedroom flat together three months after we first met. Sure, Sadie wasn't Jon's daughter, but Jon was a labourer and I an administration assistant, and children from previous relationships weren't such a big deal for people from our walk of life. All the same, I was always very mindful not to ask Jon to pay for Sadie in any way, shape or form, and there were even times where I yelled at him for spending his money on her. He always said he loved her like she was his own.

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