tagLoving WivesThe Sea Change

The Sea Change


Lately, there have been a spate of ugly-duckling stories on this site. I have no idea why. Maybe it's the weather? Anyhow, my buddy RichardGerald did it best with his story, "The Bridge." But I couldn't pass up my chance to stir up the troll population with this short piece. No sex. Please enjoy anyway – DT


East of Eden

The Devil's name was "Vanity." And my wife was far too easily seduced.

Heather was chubby all the time I knew her. So, after the kids left she started exercising. At first it was simply to lose a few pounds. Then things changed - drastically! The more she exercised, the shapelier she got. Her body became her obsession. And she was reborn a goddess.

That was when the flirting began. For the first twenty-two years we had been a companionable and loving couple. We stood together at social events. We danced with each other at parties. But now, there was such a disparity between my smoking-hot wife and her out of shape middle-aged husband that we went in opposite directions.

Heather was constantly besieged by attractive men. It was never just one guy. She talked and danced with ALL of them. And she rarely graced us with her presence. Our friends went from insulted, to cutting me pitying looks.

Seriously though - what could I do? Her behavior was never overtly disloyal. She might dance with guys who were younger, fitter and better-looking than me. But there was never any actual romance. She just looked like she was having fun. And needless to say, she was happier than I could remember.

I was willing to ride it out. I had heard of middle-aged-crazy. And I hoped that this too would soon pass. But Heather's newfound empowerment had changed her in fundamental ways.

First there was the narcissism. Heather couldn't stop looking at herself – and playing with her body. Then there was the ego. She was a trophy now. And she knew it. She just radiated, "I can get any man I want." Notwithstanding the disrespect to me, that attitude made the other wives wild. Heather didn't deign to notice

Her radical change in behavior was perfectly understandable. She was suffering from the classic, "Too much- too-soon syndrome." One moment she was an average American housewife. The next, she was an object of lust for a pack of alpha-males. The relatively short period of transition from classic homemaker to sex goddess would probably skew anybody's attitude vis-à-vis life. But, unfortunately for Heather it let the Serpent into the Garden.

She appeared downstairs one auspicious Friday morning. I was enjoying a breakfast bagel. She was wearing her ratty old robe. She got a cup of coffee and sat down opposite me. I recognized the stubborn look. I thought, "Oh-oh!! This isn't going to be good!!"

She said, "Tom, there's something I need to talk to you about." Those words are not something that a husband wants to hear. So I put my bagel down and looked at her attentively.

She said, "I have never had my own identity. I have always been Tommy and Suzie's mom and your wife. But now that I have transformed myself, I am my own woman." She stopped and waited for the obvious question. I said, "And exactly what does that mean?"

She said, "I was a wallflower when we met. I had a few boyfriends. But I was just middling. In fact, I think it was our mutual ordinariness that made us so compatible. And we have led an utterly unremarkable life for the past twenty-two years."

She stood up and opened her robe. She was naked underneath. Her toned thighs, tight flanks, hard stomach, and big firm tits were extraordinary. She ran her hands down her superb body and said with pride, "I'm not a wallflower anymore." She closed her robe and sat down again.

She looked at me like she was willing me to understand something. She said, "Men hit on me all the time. I brush them off because I love you. But one special man has offered to take me to an extraordinary place." She paused, and said in a whisper, "And God forgive me, but I am going to take him up on his offer."

I had already guessed where this conversation was headed. And I was angry. But I put a lid on my temper and repeated, "Exactly what does THAT mean?" She looked at me pleadingly and said, "You don't know him. We met at the club. And since then we have had several lunches. During that time, he has been a perfect gentleman."

I said bitterly, "Meaning he hasn't tried to fuck you yet." She looked disgusted and said, "There's no need to be vulgar. It isn't like that. He's older and very rich and worldly. All he wants is my companionship."

I looked incredulous. So she quickly added, "He asked me to accompany him to Paris next week. And I am going to go with him. It would just be this one time. He's married."

I said, "Let me get this straight. You know that he's married. And perhaps you'll recall that you're married too? Isn't that the textbook definition of the term adultery?"

She looked exasperated and said, "You have it all wrong. I am only going to be with him on this single occasion. It's a once in a lifetime chance. After that I will be yours forever. And I will make it up to you. You'll see."

She added grimly, "But I need one, extraordinary experience to paste in my scrapbook - before time takes this away from me." And she gestured down her body again. Her tone told me that she had been obsessing about turning forty-four.

I said, "That's bullshit Heather. This guy isn't a gentleman and what he's proposing isn't special. All he wants to do is fuck you. And all YOU are going to get out of this are some great orgasms and a few souvenirs of Paris."

I stopped and added trying to sound more resolute than I felt, "And what you get after that will depend on how much you rock his world. Because I won't be around when you return."

She looked scornful and said, "Don't say that Tom. You love me. I know you do. And you will let me do this because we love each other. It isn't like I am cheating on you. Just let me have this one starry-eyed fling and you will never regret it." She was wrong. I already regretted it.

I took her left hand in both of mine and played meaningfully with her wedding ring. I said with sincerity, "I love you. Counting the courtship, we have had twenty-four fantastic years together. And we have two wonderful kids. So all I can do is beg you. Please don't do this to us."

She looked sad and said, "I will always love you Tom. And we are going to grow old together with our grandchildren. But I am leaving for Paris on Monday morning."

That shot a thunderbolt of pure angst through me. I said imploringly, "Is there any way I can talk you out of this?" She gave me the kind of patronizing look that a mother might give a naïve child and said with determination, "It IS going to happen. The arrangements have already been made."

I stood up without another word and walked out the front door. She called "Tommmm." It was the whiny tone that teenagers use when a parent is being unreasonable. I kept going.

I drove to the county park. I am not a crier. But my stomach was doing flip-flops. I opened the car door and deposited the bagel in the parking lot. I wiped my mouth and sat there looking at the same green lawn where I had watched my kids play.

You never think it will happen to you. So you never have a plan.

I considered the situation. I was bluffing about leaving. I had nowhere to go. Where would I stay? I make decent money. But with two kids in college and an upper middle class lifestyle, we were barely scraping by. We have no savings and our credit cards are close to maxed. I've got no family, no close friends. In short it was either remain in the house, or sleep in the car.

Heather knew our financial situation. I think that was why she was so sure that she could pull-off this stunt. Hopelessness, alienation and a sense of utter loneliness descended like a cloud of mustard gas. I said to myself, "I invested my emotional life in this woman. And now she's holding me for ransom???!!"

That thought stiffened my spine. I am not somebody who gracefully accepts victimhood. And I am decisive in life. So, I resolved that - if Heather could make unilateral decisions, I could too. But first I wanted some legal advice.

I called Jim Edgerton. He is a friend and a lawyer. I said, "Jim! Tommy Marshall here." There was a short pause. He said, "What's up Tom?" I laughed and said, "I was calling to see if you knew a good lawyer?" He said, "Need divorce advice?" It was a statement, not a question. I said, "It sounds like you expected this." Jim said, "Regrettably yes... Heather has been seen around town with Charlie Wilkins. You know him."

Of course I knew him. Everybody in town knew HIM. He was CEO at Vanguard Manufacturing, which was the area's primary employer. He was sixtyish, distinguished, a pillar of the community and a well-known dirty old man. His wife was Maeve Wilkins. Her blessing made your reputation in society. And her disapproval turned you into an outcast. I thought to myself, "Heather, what have you gotten yourself into?"

The house was empty when I arrived home. Heather was either at the health club, or having "lunch." I assumed that it was still JUST lunch. Wilkins was far too visible for an afternoon-delight. That was the whole point of the Paris trip.

She was already starting to pack. The nighties and sexy underthings were a revelation. I had never seen anything like THAT before. It drove home the reality of what was about to occur. I had to sit down for a second.

I was pretending to read a book when she breezed in. She was stunning in her fancy work-out gear. I would probably look that good too. If, I wasn't chained to a desk for forty hours a week. She walked toward the stairs, humming a happy little tune. Then she saw me. She looked delighted. She came over to me and said, "Let me get a shower and you can join me."

It was obvious that her motor was running. I was guessing she'd had lunch. I glanced up - like she had interrupted me - and said, "I'd love to. But I'm at a really exciting part in this novel so I'm afraid that I am going to have to take a pass."

She got it. She said, "Don't be such a pouty baby!! This is STILL all yours." Her body was amazing in her tight workout clothes. I looked at her with what I hoped was neutral interest and said, "Seriously!! I'll pass."

For a second she was angry and maybe a little hurt. Then she got a look of determination. She said, "Fine!! Act that way!! It isn't going to change anything!!" And she stomped upstairs.

That weekend was agonizing. Heather kept up the pretense that the events of the following week were no big deal. And she treated me like I was a naughty little boy for trying to spoil her fun. Worse she acted like her "fling" wouldn't affect our marriage. I avoided the delusional bitch as much as I could.

She tried to give me a pity fuck. She even trotted out a few of the items that she was reserving for Dickbreath. It didn't have the slightest effect. I rationalized the numbness as the consequence of shock. The situation was unthinkable. And it would take me a while to process the reality of it. THEN I would experience the pain.

Pride is the deadliest sin of them all. Heather knew that her body was gorgeous. But it also had an expiration date. So in her version of the fairy-tale, Prince Charming would whisk her off to Paris for a week of passion. THAT would prove once-and-for-all that she was the fairest in the land. THEN she could triumphantly return to her husband, feeling validated.

And of course my state of mind didn't factor into her narrative...

Her self-centered behavior might have been triggered by the kids moving out. An empty nest marks the end of an era for a woman. Especially for a devoted mother like Heather. Maybe she inventoried her life and felt like it was her turn. Or maybe she just went nuts. Whatever the reason, the Heather that I loved would never be so spectacularly selfish. She was literally a different person now. And that individual had no soul.

The disturbing part was her hazy grasp of reality. She sincerely believed that I would accept her "little indiscretion." And that we would straightaway move past it because we "loved each other." She was dead wrong in that respect. Plain and simple I couldn't be with a woman who saw adultery as a legitimate part of her personal growth process.

On Sunday night, Heather tried to talk about it. I think she wanted to get me on-board with the program before she left. But I had reached the end of talking.

I looked at her intently and said, "Do you realize how utterly out of character this is for you? And how drastically life-changing this step is for both of us? You are throwing away twenty-two years of marriage, two kids and a happy home for a one-week fling."

She looked at me like I was being unreasonably cruel. Then she said with affection in her voice, "You don't really mean THAT. Your male ego is just a little bruised right now. But you'll get over it. I am going to make you the happiest man on earth when I get back. You'll see. This beautiful body will be all yours. And I'll love you all the more for letting me do this."

Whew!! Talk about condescending. I am not the kind of guy whose first thought is violence. But I could get in touch with the fellows who shoot the wife and her lover.

I was sitting at the kitchen table drinking my morning coffee when Heather appeared from upstairs. I didn't say a word. She was dressed to kill. She had on a modest skirt and three inch heels for travel. But her magnificent girls were hoisted in a deeply scooped silk blouse with a light blazer over the top. The cleavage was spectacular.

She bustled over to me. I think she was planning on an adoring send-off. It would fit the narrative. This was the part where I showed her how thrilled I was that she was so desirable to other men.

Yes!! She was that out of touch...

I didn't bother to stand up. Her anger at my spoilsport behavior was clearly evident. Then a horn blew. She looked delighted and squealed, "He's here." At least she had the decency to have him stay out of the house. She grabbed her roller-bag and rushed excitedly out the door, leaving it ajar. I went over to close it.

She had just reached the limo. He was waiting beside it looking tall, handsome, and distinguished. She put both hands on his chest and stood on tip toes to kiss him. It was the sort of loving greeting that a woman would give her long-time husband.

Except the long-time husband was standing in the doorway behind her. Wilkins looked up at me. And then his eyes crinkled. He had done this before - a LOT. And he found it amusing. Heather turned and waved gaily as she got in the back. I didn't wave goodbye. Instead I shut the door on twenty-two years of marriage. That was not without significant pain.

As they say - today was the first day of the rest of my life. Which was total bullshit. Since, the road ahead ended in nothing but a wasteland of betrayed expectations. Yet, strangely I managed to work effectively. The part of my life that wasn't invested in Heather was devoted to my job. And it was soothing to wallow in the familiar rhythms of an ordinary workday.

I had made a conscious decision to shut Heather out of my thinking. Which worked right up to the point where she sent me a breezy text telling me that they had gotten off okay. It was a stunning tribute to how delusional she was.

I was afraid that she might continue to send me messages. So, I took myself over to the local Apple dealer and bought myself a new phone. As I left the parking lot I backed over my old one. Then I combed the internet for a place that I could get into cheap and fast.

In the larger picture, I was probably headed for Bankruptcy Court. But in the short term I had plenty of cash. That's because, I have a very high salary and I had made the decision to stop paying for anything associated with my old life. As the song goes, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

In fact, I was feeling so liberated that I took a lease on a double-wide. And you can stuff your jokes about trailer parks. My new place was close to work. It had excellent parking, a nice deck and it was three times roomier than any of the apartments that I'd looked at. The furnishings were brand new, if not a bit gauche. And my neighbors were the social security set, not a biker gang. So it was quiet as a grave – close to literally if you catch my drift.

On Tuesday I moved all of my portable stuff into my new residence. My last night in our old McMansion was ghastly. Every ghost and haunting memory of happier days paraded through my subconscious. Then, the next morning I arose, cast off my married chains, and I was reborn – exactly like my faithless wife.

After the Fall

There was a front-page story in the Tribune the following Monday. It was under a banner headline that read, "Playtime in Paris!!" There was even a picture of the two adulterers looking ambushed as they cleared Customs.

The gory details played themselves out over a three-day news cycle. It included a raft of rumor and innuendo about Wilkins's other "alleged" affairs. The whole sordid mess made for fascinating reading. And it got a lot of coverage. It also must have been an eye opener for Heather to find out that she wasn't so "special" after all.

I don't know what Wilkins thought was going to happen. Maybe he just assumed I would be honored to have the horns hung on me. Or perhaps he thought that he was too mighty to be threatened by a nobody like me. Either way, he had a lot to learn about the price of hubris.

He had forgotten about the "gottcha" vibe that permeates the Fourth Estate. The media craves red meat. And, there is nothing like a juicy scandal to sell papers. So I leveraged Wilkins's OWN community prominence, to set loose the baying hounds of the press. It just took a couple of phone calls and some basic facts.

I have no idea what happened after that. He DID stay married. But his wife looked like somebody who relished getting even – over, and over, and over again. Wilkins's very public fall from grace also turned both of them into social pariahs. That was delicious irony given his wife's former status as the doyen of society. And, I was also pretty sure that a messy scandal wouldn't enhance his career prospects going forward.

Heather started calling me at the opening of business on Tuesday. She must have tried to get ahold of me Monday. But that phone had tire tracks on it. I knew that I would have to talk to her sooner or later. So I bit the bullet and answered. I said in my most professional tone, "Tommy Meissner, how may I help you?" Her anger was barely controlled. She said, "Where have you been!!??? I called all day yesterday and you didn't answer your phone?!!"

I said conversationally, "So how was Paris? You looked really good in the picture in the Tribune." She said furiously, "Where are you? Where are your things? Why aren't you home?"

I laughed merrily and said, "What part of I won't be there when you get back didn't you understand?"

There was a long pause. She said somewhat chastened, "I didn't think you meant it. There is no way you would just walk away from twenty-two years of happy marriage." I chuckled some more and said, "Oh but I HAVE Heather. And now I am a brand new ME."

Her tone switched to seductive, "But lover. I can't live without you. You know that." She probably didn't realize how true her words actually were. I had left what remained in our bank accounts. But that would run out in a couple of weeks. And she had nothing to replenish it.

I said matter of fact, "Get used to it. I am completely out of your life now. And I really have to get going." She blurted, "Wait!! Don't hang up!! I really need to talk to you!!?" All of the bravado was gone. She sounded desperate.

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