Maria’s funeral was set for Friday at eleven. I knew she wanted to be cremated, so her mom and I decided to respect her wishes. I was still numb from everything. I knew I would break down sooner or later, I had a feeling once the funeral was over and I didn’t have anything else occupying my time it would happen. I wasn’t looking forward to it, or anything.
The police had come by the day after she died to question me some more. During the questioning they found it ‘interesting’ that she had been off in recent weeks. I didn’t realize how much her mood shifted until I started talking about it. She’d stopped eating so much, her sleep habits went to shit. She would stay up all hours of the night, when she was normally in bed before ten. I assumed her snapping at me all the time was due to lack of sleep. I didn’t know how women worked, so it could have been PMS, but that usually only lasted three days and then I would get my wife back. Her bad mood had been going on for more than two weeks.
I didn’t have an issue with the police going through her things. They took a handful of papers from her nightstand, but didn’t tell me what they were. I didn’t care, I was dealing with losing my wife and her inconsolable mother.
When I got home from Sandy’s — my mother-in-law — I went straight to the back door to let Molly out. Sandy was allergic so I never took her with me over there. While she was taking a piss I moved into the kitchen to get a beer. In the three days since losing my wife I’d killed two bottles of vodka and Lord knows how many beers. I cracked it open and didn’t hesitate to take a long pull. It was refreshing.
I was on my way to let Molly back in when there was a knock on the door. Not the doorbell, but a pounding knock like the police were trying to beat it down. What the fuck?
I set my beer on the counter and walked out to open the front door. There was a small blonde with bright blue eyes, that had clearly been crying, standing on the other side. She had a manila envelope in her hand and she looked pissed. Like I could practically see the steam coming from her ears pissed.
“Can I help you?” I asked, leaning in the door so she couldn’t see into my house. She looked unstable. I wasn’t sure I was up against.
“I need to speak to Maria,” she demanded.
“She’s not…” I trailed off. I was going to say she wasn’t home, but it hit me that she would never be home. I’d only said the words once, but I was about to say them again. “I’m sorry, she passed away three days ago. I’m her husban–”
“The homewrecking whore was married?!”
“Excuse me?” I straightened up. My wife was not a homewrecker. What the fuck was this chick talking about?
She reached into the envelope and then thrust a photo at me.
“Is that your wife?”
I looked at the picture. That numbness turned into anger when I recognized the picture. She was on a long girls weekend in San Diego five months ago. At least the picture she sent me on that trip she was wearing the same bikini and the background looked similar. Who the hell was the lumberjack schmuck she was hugged up on?
“Who the fuck is he and what the fuck is he doing with his hands on my wife?” I growled. “Where did you get this?”
“My dead husband’s safe,” the woman answered with a sniffle.
“Your… that’s your husband?” I was in complete shock. It was almost more shocking than the news my wife died. “So…” More words I didn’t want to say came to mind.
“We were married ten years,” she told me. “We have a child together. I thought we were happy. I was happy. He was fucking your wife.”
“I… do you want to come in?” She obviously knew a lot more about their affair than I did. I needed to know what she knew.
She shook her head and thrust the envelope at me.
“I don’t want any part of this. You do what you want with this trash,” she said.
“Thanks,” I muttered. “How long have you known?”
“An hour. The bastard hid it well. Those cards and letters go back to when I was still pregnant and on bed rest,” she said with disgust.
“How old is your child?” Maria never gave any indication that she was unhappy. Part of me felt like she was making it up. Pictures usually didn’t lie though.
“Nineteen months. She’s nineteen months.”
“How long ago did you lose your husband?”
“Nineteen days ago. He had a stroke and died after being on life support for two days,” the woman told me. “I saw your wife at the hospital. I should have known then that something was wrong. I have to go. My daughter needs me.”
“Thanks… sorry about your… all of it,” I sighed. I would’ve been better off not knowing.
“Me too,” she replied. She turned to walk away and wrapped her sweater around her body tighter. “I’m sorry you lost your wife and I’m sorry I ruined who she was for you. Believe me, I understand the disappointment.” She didn’t wait for my response, she just climbed up into her Armada and drove off.
I closed the door and noticed Molly sitting at the back door waiting patiently for me to let her back in. I walked back to let her in. As soon as I opened the door it all fell into place. Maria’s mood shift was around the same time the blonde girl lost her husband. It was impossible to believe Maria was cheating, though.
I sat down in the breakfast nook so I could go through the information in the envelope. The first thing I noticed was that it was definitely my wife’s handwriting. As I went through each card and letter I got sicker and sicker. She wrote some of the same things she had said to me. Hell, in one of the cards she had written something I wrote in an anniversary card. My stomach turned and it took everything in my not to puke up the little bit of food I’d consumed over the last few days.
How the hell did I miss it? It was going on for over a year. A fucking year and I missed any and all cues if there were any.
I shoved everything back into the envelope. I wanted to call her mom and tell her she could deal with the funeral on her own. I didn’t want anything to do with Maria anymore. That wasn’t going to happen. Sandy didn’t wrong me. Maria did, and I had no way to yell at her or kick her out or any of that. She didn’t have the opportunity to beg for forgiveness or tell me she was leaving me for the guy. I read his name, but I didn’t want to think it. I felt bad for his family, his wife was clearly as distraught as I was. He had a daughter. How could anyone do that to a child? Did Maria know about his daughter? Any and all respect I had for her was gone, so I guess it didn’t make a difference.
I finished off my beer, picked up my phone and dialed Bobby’s number. Bobby and I had been friends since we were in high school. I knew I could trust him to keep the secret from Sandy at the funeral. Just because Maria wronged me, that didn’t mean I wanted everyone to know what a deceitful person she was. As shitty as it was, I was still in love with my wife, cheater or not.
“What’s up, bro?” Bobby answered.
“I just got news I don’t know what to do with,” I told him.
“What kind of news?”
“Like a sad looking blonde showed up about a half hour ago to tell me Maria was having an affair with her dead husband news.”
“Shut up,” he said a minute later.
“She dropped off an envelope full of letters and a couple pictures of them together. It was going on almost two years,” I explained.
“Holy shit,” he muttered.
“Uh huh. I don’t know what the fuck to do. I guess there is nothing to do at this point,” I sighed. “It definitely took me by surprise.”
“Well yeah, I can see why. Are you sure the other guy is dead?”
“His wife said he died nineteen days ago. He had a stroke. She found the letters and pictures and brought them over to confront Maria, I assume, since she asked for her when I opened the door.”
“Oh shit. You know, if anyone knew about this it was probably fuckin’ Ginger,” he told me. Ginger was Maria’s best friend.
“You think I should call her?” I didn’t know if I wanted to know anymore than I did.
“Fuck that. I’d show her a picture and check out her reaction. Better yet, call Bill and get him to hack into her phone. I bet you she’s got pictures and texts there,” he said.
“I don’t need Bill to hack into her phone. I’ve seen her lock pattern. I just didn’t think I had to snoop through it to look for a texts to a lover,” I sighed.
“Of course not. Bro, I’m sorry. That’s so fucked up,” Bobby said sincerely.
“Thanks. I want to call off the fuckin’ funeral and crawl into my bed to sleep until all of this blows over, but that’s not an option,” I said. “I love her, ya know? I don’t want to make her look bad, but at the same time she fuckin’ crushed me… and I can’t do a goddamn thing about it.”
“Bang a new broad,” he suggested but he knew I wouldn’t.
“You know I can’t do that.” Maybe if I found out she cheated while she was still alive, I could at least go out and attempt to fuck another girl, but she was dead. There was too much going on in my head to even entertain that idea.
“I can be there in twenty with a sick amount of whiskey,” he offered.
“Can you bring some snacks too?” I didn’t have much of an appetite, but I had to eat and I didn’t have it in me to make anything. I needed to clean the fridge out as it was.
“Pulled pork sliders from Gilroy’s okay?”
“Yeah, that’ll do,” I agreed.
“See you soon,” he said and hung up.
I set my phone down for a moment to contemplate what I wanted to do while I waited for Bobby. Bringing up Ginger got me to thinking. She had to know, right? Ginger and Maria were as thick as thieves. I picked my phone back up and dialed Ginger. I wasn’t going to ask her over the phone. I wanted to invite her over so I could do as Bobby suggested and show her the picture. It was a trip Ginger was supposed to be on. Hell, as far as I knew she took the fuckin’ picture.
“Hey, handsome, how’re you holding up?”
“Not too well,” I answered honestly. “I mean, I haven’t tried to jump in the lake with a cinder block tied to my ankle, but it’s been shitty.”
“I’m sorry, hon. Do you need anything? I can come by and make you some supper if you want some company,” she offered.
“Bobby is coming by. He’s bringing whiskey and sliders,” I told her. “I am calling to see if you want to come over tomorrow, though. I want to start going through her things and I’d like you to be here with me while I do it.” That was the truth. If she knew I didn’t know how I would feel about it, but I had to know.
“Sure, of course I’ll be there. Just tell me when and I’ll be there.” Ginger had been incredibly supportive through everything.
“Thanks, Ginger. I don’t know where I would be without you,” I told her. It was true. “I’ll probably be up by ten. It all depends on how drunk we get tonight.” The sun was still up.
“Okay. Just text me when you’re ready. I’ll bring breakfast and coffee.”
“Thanks. I guess I’ll let you get back to whatever it was you were doing. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Alright. You be safe tonight.”
“I’ll try. I have Bobby and Molly. I’m sure they’ll keep me in line.” Bobby was likely to order strippers.
“Molly maybe but Bobby will probably get you herpes.”
“Nah, he’ll make sure I stay safe,” I chuckled humorlessly.
“Well enjoy. I have to go switch laundry loads.”
“Thanks.” I hung up the phone.
I’d gotten a lot of really bad, life changing information in an extremely short amount of time. I had no idea what to do with any of it.
“He was cheating on me,” I told my mom on the drive home. The full weight of it hadn’t set in.
“He was what?” Mom gasped.
“He had a mistress for two years. Her name was Maria and he was with her while I was still pregnant, Mom. They went on romantic trips and I think he was going to leave me for her,” I said. My voice was emotionless but I blamed the shock for it.
“Oh my God, sweetie, I’m so sorry,” Mom said. “I can’t believe that he would leave you for anyone. Weren’t you two trying for another baby?”
“We were,” I agreed “But that doesn’t mean anything. He cheated while I was pregnant already.”
She sighed and asked, “How did you find out about her? What are you going to do?”
“I went into the safe and he had a whole stack of mementos from their relationship. Pictures, letters, cards… I took it all to her house to confront her and it turns out she’s married too. Her husband answered the door. He had no idea. She’s dead too, Mom. She died three days ago.”
“Oh, Sookie.” Mom sounded overwhelmed by all of the new information. “That’s terrible, for both of you. Are you going to tell Jackson?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what to do, Mom. What do I do?” There was no instruction manual for dealing with that kind of thing.
“The first thing I would do is go spit on his grave, but it wasn’t me he wronged,” she sighed. “It’s a sticky situation. He’s not here to confront or talk to about it. You can’t yell and scream or kick him out like you probably would. You have to decide if you’re going to be able to move past this one day, or if you’re going to hoard this anger and hurt forever. In this situation you have to decide what you can live with. I know you’re still in love with him, so I know it’s not going to be easy to work out. If I was in your shoes… I’d hold on tight to my daughter and do my damndest to forgive Alcide before moving on.”
I laughed. I didn’t know what else to do.
For the millionth time since he died I thought about how unfair it all was. Alcide obviously never intended for me to find those cards and letters. If he was going to leave he was probably going to do so without telling me about the mistress. Why confess that it was his fault our marriage was over?
“Can you take Willa tonight?” I needed some space and a lot more wine. My daughter didn’t need to see me that way.
“Of course I can. I can swing by to pick her up whenever you need me to,” she agreed.
“I’ll ask Jackson to drop her off,” I said.
“Okay, it’ll be nice to see him.”
“Thanks, Mom. Oh, please don’t say anything to Dad about this. You know he’ll fly off the handle and say the wrong thing to Jackson.” The two of them had been friends for too long to lose each other over Alcide’s inability to keep his hands to himself.
“I won’t,” she promised. “That’s information is for you to deal with however you choose. If you want to tell Dad, that’s up to you.”
I nodded and said, “I’ll have Jackson call you when they’re on their way.”
“Alright, sweetie. I love you.”
“I love you too.” I hung up the phone. I sat behind the wheel of my car just around the corner from where Alcide’s mistress lived. The man at the door had a face I recognized. He was a writer. I’d seen commercials on TV for his books and suggestions I read his books on the sidebar of my Facebook page.
I didn’t know what to do with myself.
I was completely unprepared to deal with all that. It would have been different if he was still around. Kicking him out would have been just the beginning. I was furious that I was never going to know why he did it. What made him want to get involved with another woman? Was it just the lack of sex because of the pregnancy? I never thought he was the kind of guy to throw everything away for a cheap piece of ass.
After sitting for a while I started the SUV. I had barely gotten around the corner when my brother called. His name popped up on the center console screen where the Bluetooth was. I hit the button on the steering wheel to answer the call.
“Hey, Jase,” I answered. I had a good relationship with my brother. Al’s death had hit him pretty hard too. We had known Al for too long for Jase not to think of him as a brother.
“Hey, Sis, how are you?”
“Alright,” I replied.
“I’m just calling to check in with you. It’s been a few days.”
“I’m okay. Willa’s going to Mom and Dad’s for the night. Mom needs snuggle time with her favorite munchkin,” I told him. “How are you?”
“I’m doin’ alright. I may swing by Mom and Dad’s to see Willa since she’ll be over there,” he said. “I’ve been thinkin’ a lot about him lately.”
“Yeah, me too. I started packing up his stuff today.” My voice cracked all on its own. Angry tears filled my eyes and I had to pull over so I didn’t crash into someone.
“Do you want me to come hang out with you? I can help if you need it…”
Before I could stop myself I blurted out, “He had someone on the side. Did you know about it?”
My brother was one of his closest friends. I’d hope that if he knew something like that he wouldn’t keep it from me but anything was possible if Alcide could do what he did.
“He what?!” Jason shouted. “Hell no I didn’t know about that. I woulda murdered him myself.”
“I found love letters and pictures today. You swear you didn’t know, Jason?” Deep down I knew. Alcide had hidden it well. He hadn’t given me a single reason to suspect anything was wrong. Our finances were in order. I paid the bills and managed our household budget. There was nothing there to suggest an affair in the bank or credit card statements. He had gotten away with the affair for two years. Either he was that good or I was that dumb, and right then I was feeling like a blue ribbon fool.
“I swear it, Sook. You know I woulda told you about that. Alcide was like my brother, but you’re blood. That shit don’t fly.”
“I want to hit him and I can’t. I want to demand to know why. Why would he do it? Why her? Why wasn’t I enough? I can’t… I can’t…” I got so upset I couldn’t breathe. I tried but it was like my lungs just wouldn’t do it. Somehow I got out of the car and doubled over, grabbing onto the car to stay on my feet. I’d never felt anything like it.
“Sook, where are you?” Jason asked. “I can come get you.”
I wanted to answer but it was a minute before I could.
“The gas station on Tremont and Kelly Street,” I told him.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“I’ll be here.” I disconnected the call and shut off the car so I could go inside for a bottle of water. I was sure I looked a little crazy but I didn’t care.
I bought a bottle of water and then went back to the SUV to wait for Jason. Leaving my SUV there probably wasn’t going to work but I could have Jason follow me home. He’d get to see the munchkin. I had to decide what to say to Jackson. He’d had a rough couple of years. Telling him about the affair would probably do more harm than good.
Jason pulled up a few minutes later in his pickup. That truck was his baby. He loved her the way I loved my kid. It was kind of weird but at least he found something in his life to make a big priority. He was determined to be our family’s answer to George Clooney, only my brother wasn’t quite as witty… or rich.
“Just follow me back to the house, okay? I don’t want to leave my car here,” I said when he pulled up.
“Okay. You sure you’re good to drive?”
“Yeah, I’m okay now. I think I had a panic attack or something. I’ve never had one before,” I admitted. “I had some water and walked around a bit. I think I’m okay.”
“Alright. I’ll be right behind you,” he said.
“Thanks,” I smiled. I went back to my Armada and got up behind the wheel.
Just as I was fastening my seatbelt I noticed some jerk-off redheaded guy come screeching into the parking lot. He was driving like he was auditioning to do the driving scenes in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and I couldn’t help laughing when Jason jumped out of his truck like his ass was on fire. He was off duty, but he still carried his badge around. Within seconds he was practically yanking the douchebag from his stupid Mustang to rip him a new asshole. No doubt Jason was slightly affected by the bombshell I’d dropped on him, but I had to admit it felt good to watch someone get reamed, even if it was my late husband that should have been on the receiving end of it.