The Ties That Bind Us


"But your wife's still alive while my husband's dead. You'll be able to get answers and have closure. Me? I'll have to just wonder why my husband did it." She continued crying. I went around the table and attempted to comfort her. She tried to push me away but I was persistent.

"I know you don't want to hear this but in one way you're the lucky one. You can move forward with your life now. Find someone else, get married again, and never have to worry about seeing him again. But because of the kids I'm going to have to see my cheating wife's face, and be constantly reminded of what we once had and lost. I may find out the why but what difference will that make? My marriage is over and I'm going to have to grieve over it just like you are."

We ordered and had lunch if for no other reason than we were already there. I stopped drinking alcohol because I didn't want to add a DUI to my already long list of issues. It took about fifteen minutes before we started talking again. We had a bond because of something that neither one of us had ever thought would happen. For the first time we talked about something other than our spouses. She told me about her daughter and I told her about my two kids. If it weren't for the real reason we were there it would have been a very nice lunch. Carol described her marriage as good but trying at times with Ed being on the road a lot.

"Steve, every marriage had problems and ours was far from perfect, but I never expected to get blindsided like I was. If he'd just told me that he was unhappy or dissatisfied I know we could have worked it out one way or another. You can't solve your problems by bringing a third person into the mix. I'm sorry I went off on you. I am just so angry all the time now. The hurt is still there, but I just wish I could look him in the eye, shake him, and ask 'what were you thinking?' I know it's going to get easier but what do I do until then?"

"I guess you do what I'm doing and that is take it one day at a time. Now with it all out in the open I'm going to have to make some hard decisions that's going to affect not only Laura and me, but also a whole lot of other people. And I, like you, want to know why she threw away a perfectly good marriage for a roll in the sack with someone else but unless she wakes up I'll never know either." We finished lunch and skipped dessert.

Carol wasn't sure what she was going to do going forward but on top of her immediate list was to sell her house. She said that she could no longer afford it, and there were too many memories there.

"I'll probably move back to Ohio and in with my mom and dad for right now. Thank God, Ed's life insurance and pension paid off everything we owed so I can start off fresh without anything hanging over my head. I was only working part time and told my boss yesterday I was giving my notice at the end of the week."

"I know I've said it and had it said to me a million times before, I'm sorry any of this had to happen. You and your daughter don't deserve this type of hardship." She thanked me, and we walked out together.

"You okay to drive?" I asked Carol

"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks for not hiding the truth from me. Even though I may not have wanted to hear it, I'd rather know than to continue thinking I could have been wrong." She kissed me on the cheek. "Don't be a stranger and good luck with your wife," she said getting into her car and pulling away. I was going to need more than luck when it came to Laura.

For the next three days I went home after work and between dinner and quite a few beers I started to put a plan together. When Randi called me on day four and asked if anything was wrong I told her I was working on a problem. By Wednesday night, when I didn't show up at the hospital, both she and Evan came looking for me.

"All right, Dad, what's going on? You haven't been to see Mom in almost a week. Is there something about her condition you're keeping from us?" Randi asked looking afraid of what I was going to tell her.

"Dad, we're not kids," Evan added in. I wasn't going to bring it up just yet but thought what the hell, it would eventually come out anyway.

"Kids, there is something. I didn't want to tell you just yet but." I started to explain when Randi started crying.

"She's dying, isn't she? That's why you haven't been there. When did you find out? Why didn't you tell us?" she said as the tears began to flow.

"Relax, your mom's not dying. Where did this all come from?" I asked.

"Well, you haven't been to see her all week, and I just thought with you telling me that you were working on a problem it involved Mom."

"Kids, I think you might want to sit down for what I'm about to tell you and maybe a drink might be in order." They both refused and told me to get on with it. I looked them both in the eye and started.

"You're mother has been cheating on me for quite a while. She was with him when she got in that car accident."

Randi was horrified at the idea. "No way. Mom would never cheat on you. She loves you too much."

"Look, I thought the same thing, but I was following her and her lover in my car when they got in that accident." They just looked at me like I'd lost my mind.

I spent the next hour going over everything Carol and I had found out. From the time I pulled up behind them at her work to my conversations with Patty. They were in shock like I'd been weeks ago.

"Dad, there has to be some mistake. You know Mom, she'd never do what you're suggesting." Randi defended her mother hoping I was wrong about her guilt.

Evan wasn't so nice. "Dad, she may be my mother but I can't excuse what she's done to you. And Aunt Patty, well she's every bit as guilty as Mom. I hope I don't see her before I have a chance to cool down or I'd probably lose it and tell her what I really think of her. I wonder if she's been cheating on Uncle Bob?" The questions were now coming from all angles.

"Kids, the one thing I can tell you for sure is that I'm done with your mother. I can't divorce her right now because she's on my medical insurance, but I no longer consider her my wife. I'm going to get the papers started but won't serve her until, when, and if she comes out of her coma."

"Dad, don't do anything until after you talk to Mom. I know it looks bad right now, but maybe there's some other explanation?" Randi pleaded with me.

"You mean like they were just renting a room at the Hilton to talk and play board games?" I didn't want to hurt my daughter but come on; we all know what she was doing there. I told her I'd move slowly on it. That gave her a little relief.

I was glad to see them leave. I hadn't wanted to have this discussion but was glad it was now out in the open. The one thing I didn't expect was when Evan laid into Laura's parents on the next trip to the hospital. They had made the observation that I was no longer coming to see their daughter. That's when he told them the sordid details leaving nothing out. I heard they were shocked. One of the nurses had to tell them to keep their voices down when Evan called Laura a fucking tramp and her dad took offense to that.

"My daughter is not a tramp," his grandfather yelled back at him. "Steve must have done something."

"Grandpa, my father did nothing to mom. He's always treated her like his loving wife. Why she decided to take a lover is anyone's guess, but I'll never forgive her for what she did to my father and our family." I guess it went downhill from that point on.

Patty sent me an e-mail trying to explain the who, what, and why but after reading it I just replied that I never wanted to hear from her again and deleted it. How stupid did she think I was? So, from that night forward I started building a new life. I didn't go out of my way to tell anyone about my problems but when my boss kept bugging me about how Laura was doing, I took him aside and gave him the short version. If he was sorry for me before he was doubly sorry now. Everyone I told was sorry for me, but I was coming to grips with it.

I was going to separate everything. I realized, though, if she did happen to die it would be that much harder to resolve everything. So I waited. The one thing I did do one weekend was to write a letter to Laura. I put down all my feelings, including my hurt into it, and asked my daughter Randi to give it to her mother if and when she came out of her coma. I had already stopped going to the hospital, and Evan was only going once in a while at Randi's insistence. Randi thought it would be better if I gave Laura the letter but when I said I never wanted to see her again she finally relented. Shortly there after, Laura woke up.



With Laura now asleep again, Patty began to read the letter Steve had written to her.


If you're reading this, you've finally come out of your coma much to my dismay. I don't know how many times, since that faithful day, I had wished that you had died in that car crash. The look on your face when I came to the driver's window that day pretty much said it all; you were finally caught. Ed really was a dumb shit wasn't he? Only a real idiot would have tried to go through a busy intersection at lunchtime. If you don't know yet he died on impact. I'm only sorry I didn't get the chance to rearrange his face properly, but the UPS truck beat me to it.

Patty and I had a heart to heart discussion and as you can imagine she's not on my list of favorites, anymore. Ed's wife found the credit card that he used to rent your little love nest. After cross-referencing the dates with your planner we put two and two together. Patty was still lying to me just before I told her I never wanted to speak to her again. Bob called back and apologized for his stupid wife, but the damage had already been done.

I have to admit, you were good. I never saw it coming and even after Carol came up with the accusation of the two of you cheating on us I told her she was way off base. Even now I still have a problem believing it. How I could have been so naïve and blind still upsets me. I guess that when you love someone as much as I loved you, you just never think that that person could ever fuck you over. I hope it was worth it.

Just so you're not blindsided both kids now know. Randi took the side that everyone makes mistakes and has basically forgiven you, but Evan and your father have had more than one knock down and drag out argument after he called you a tramp in front of him. Your parents aren't happy about it either, but eventually they'll forgive you; Evan is a whole other issue. Go easy with him, because he, along with more than a few others, are angry with you right now and don't understand what you were thinking.

As for me, we're done. The first time you crossed that threshold with your new fuck buddy, Ed, it was over for us. Patty tried to tell me that it was only one time until I told her what I knew. Like I said you and Patty both really deserve academy awards for your roles of loving wife and caring sister. Don't expect my vote.

You're still on my medical until we can work out the final details. That way you won't be saddled with thousands of dollars of medical bills. The house will be sold, and I've tossed our bed to the curb. You've probably been banging guys in our martial bed and as soon as I found out I couldn't bring myself to sleep in it any longer. We can split all our assets right down the middle and we can each keep our own 401K retirement plans. I highly suggest you don't make waves or fight this divorce or I'll drag your name through the mud. I'll let everyone know what a real slut you are. No one at your work knows a thing and your job is waiting for you when you recover.

For me, I never want to see your face again. I never want to talk to you or for you to e-mail me either. At first I wanted to know why. Why you did it. If it was me or if it was something I did or didn't do, but then I thought what the hell. I finally realized it didn't matter why, just that you had done what you did. If you had wanted out that bad, I would have felt bad, but I would have let you go. Now, all I just want you fucking gone and out of my life.

I know there are going to be some issues over the next couple of months, but I'll send you my lawyer's name, when I get one, so you can go through him, not me. Like I said, I was waiting for you to wake up or die, whichever came first, before I went forward with this.

So in closing, I hope you have a miserable fucking life, and when you look in the mirror and see all those damn scars you feel excursing pain at what you threw away. I don't plan on taking the high road because you sure as hell didn't. I'm angry, bitter, and like I said before; I wished you'd died in that damn accident.

It wasn't even signed.

Patty hadn't blinked once through the entire letter. Steve had pretty much hit the nail on the head, and although she knew the intimate details of Laura's affair she never would have mentioned them to another living soul. She felt that if you couldn't trust blood; who could you trust? But Laura hadn't made it all the way to the end of the letter, and Patty didn't know how she was going to react when she finally did. Patty was worried about Laura. Patty also knew that there was no way in hell Steve was going to take her back. Well, at least she'd still have her job when she got out of the hospital.

She had told Laura more than once she was playing with fire, but Laura had insisted there was no way Steve was going to find out. She'd fully admitted the sex was nowhere near as good as what it was between her and Steve, but their love life had become boring, and she needed to interject a little spice. However, it turns out it wasn't spice more so acid. Laura had told her that she was going to break it off because Ed was getting too demanding and asking for more and more time with her. He wasn't happy with just an occasional roll in the sack now he wanted lunches and nights out with her.

It was now common knowledge, at least throughout her family, that she'd cheated on Steve, and Patty only hoped that their parents and Evan would finally come around and forgive her; family, after all, was still family.


When Laura awoke she was sure she'd dreamed the whole thing. It had been one of those crazy drug induced dreams. She had coming in and out of consciousness over the last thirty-six hours. When she noticed Patty sleeping in the chair next to her bed she was relieved to see someone she'd shared so much of her life with. Laura touched Patty's shoulder and watched her jump and then looked at her.

"How are you feeling?" Patty asked.

"Much better. Have you been here all night?"

"Yeah, I fell asleep a little after ten last night. Forget about me, how are you doing?"

"I needed that sleep. I had the craziest dreams. Thankfully, they were just nightmares." Then she saw the letter on Patty's lap. "Oh fuck, it wasn't a dream," she said tearing up again.

"Laura, look at me," Patty said calmly to her. "If you don't settle down, they're going to put you under again; do you understand?" Laura nodded. "What you have to understand is that Steve knows everything. Even though you guys were careful you left a paper trail and now everyone knows. He doesn't want you back and waited to divorce you until you woke up."

"Patty, maybe there's a chance. If I could just speak to him I can make him understand it was just a stupid fling and only sex. Maybe he'll give me another chance. Will you talk to him?"

"Laura, I'm one of the last people he wants to talk to. Remember you used me as an alibi. Hell, it took me weeks just to get my husband to forgive me after he found out what I'd done. Bob thought I was fooling around on him, also. No, the only one you have a chance with is Randi. She's forgiven both of us, and she has kept Steve informed of your progress. Steve may listen to her, but I sincerely doubt it. I told you what would happen if he found out."

"I know, I know, but it was so naughty and exciting at first, then it just became something to do when Ed was in town. With someone actively pursuing me I kind of felt like a high school girl again only this time I was going to go all the way if he asked me. I know it was stupid, and I let it get out of hand, but I never thought I'd get caught. Patty, I never felt any love for Ed or loved Steve any less."

"Laura, that was the problem, you didn't think." She was right.

For the next two days Laura was poked, prodded, and tested. Everything was normal or normal enough for her to be discharged. She would need an additional surgery on her right hand and lower left leg to remove some small bone fragments, but it could be done any time in the future. Randi was there with her every step of the way and had a bedroom set up in her apartment waiting for her mother.

"I got most of your clothes from the house, and Dad dropped off your car at my place a couple of days ago. He has paid the insurance on it until the end of the year. In a week or so Dad is going out of town and said that you could go into the house and take whatever you want. He said he wants to put it up for sale as soon as it's all cleaned out. I've got a ton of cards at my place for you from, I guess, everyone you know. After a week or so I told everyone no more flowers, your room was starting to look like a flower shop. I'll pick you up tomorrow morning in Evan's van. It will be easier for you to get in and out than my little car. Get some rest tonight we've got a big day tomorrow." With that said Randi was gone, at least for now.

Laura spent the last night in the hospital lamenting what she had done and trying to figure out a way to win Steve back if possible, or at least get him to talk to her. Maybe after a good night's sleep she would figure out a way.

After three weeks at Randi's, they were allowed back into the house. Steve and a few friends went out of town. Laura and Randi had all day Saturday and Sunday to look around. The house was kind of a mess. What caught their eyes were the partial ashes and broken glass in the family room fireplace. Pictures. All the pictures from their entire marriage were in there. Most were charred ashes but a few along the side still remained. It looks like Steve had just dumped them all in struck a match and walked away. Something like Laura had done to her marriage, she thought. The wedding pictures, the ones taken on family trips, and even two family portraits were gone.

"How could Dad do this? If he didn't want them I would have taken them. Now we have nothing from all the vacations and trips we took." Randi looked forlornly at the charred remains in the fireplace.

"Randi, I think that was the idea," Laura said sitting on the hearth pulling out any of them that were still left.

Besides the furniture there wasn't much left. They filled up three large trash bags of stuff and while Randi loaded them into her car Laura took one last look around. Twenty-four years together and all that was left were some clothes, a few mementos, and two great kids, one of whom still wasn't talking to her much. The last thing Laura took was the nutcracker Steve had given to her for their first Christmas. Money had been a little tight, and they had agreed not to exchange gifts. But, Laura guessed, he saw the way she was looking at it in the store and somehow found the money. It was the first thing they put out during the holidays and the last thing they put away. She was kind of surprised he hadn't burnt that too. As old as it was it would have gone up like a stick match. With one more tear she shut the door and walked out of her old life into Randi's waiting car.

Over the next four months Steve and Laura divided their life. Money, stocks, and their retirements all bit the dust. He was a lot fairer than she would have been if the conditions had been reversed. When the house sold they split the profits, and he filed the papers with the court. They were now a hundred percent separate, so there wasn't anything to argue about.

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