The Sidelined Wife(7)

By: Jennifer Peel

Ma let it drop for now, but I’m sure Dad would get an earful later. She still had some questions for Reed. “Are you dating anyone?”

Poor Reed.

He took it all in stride. “Not right now.”

Ma got my attention. “What young women do we know at church that we could set him up with?”

I gave her a blank stare. I hadn’t been to church since Easter and I wasn’t up on all the single ladies. I’d had my own relationship issues to deal with.

Ma waved her hand at me like I was no use, but then a thought popped into her head and she was back to penetrating me with her all-knowing eyes. “We really need to come up with a list of single older men for you. You’re going to be forty in two months, and you know what the odds are of you ever getting married after that? You’re more likely to die in a plane crash.”

I dropped my fork and it clanged against my plate. “Ma, could I at least be divorced for a few weeks before we talk about getting married again?” Not like I was ever planning on it. Dying in a plane crash sounded better.

The “D” word set Mimsy off again. Dad saved me and grabbed her glass before anybody else got sprayed with her unsanctified water. But Mimsy still had her two cents to add. “Whoever she marries now will be committing adultery since she’s been married.”

Snickers of muted laughter filled the room.

I really needed that triple chocolate mousse pie.

Everyone guffawed at my expense, well, everyone but Reed and my son. I could tell from Cody’s stiff stance next to me that he didn’t need to think of both his parents as adulterers, even though he knew what Mimsy said wasn’t true.

While I touched my son’s knee, Reed, in a very unexpected gesture, placed his hand on my bare knee under the table. “You’d be worth it.”

He removed his hand as fast as he had placed it on me. Then he acted as if it never happened. Or maybe he was disgusted by how prickly my leg was. Shaving had gone way down on the priority list.

I wasn’t sure how to feel about his touch. That man hand didn’t belong to the boy I knew, and neither did his look. And why would he say something like that? What did he know? He was a kid.

Chapter Four

Nights were the worst. My mind not only raced, but it replayed every gut-wrenching moment of the past eight months. From the second Neil confessed his supposed one-time indiscretion to the real truth. Or at least as far as I knew. I wasn’t sure what was real anymore. He was gone, and all I knew was the king-size bed felt too big. Loneliness filled the room with the tray ceilings I had insisted on having.

I stared up at the ceiling fan spinning in a circle in the dark. It wasn’t far from how I felt. I needed to get off that track and start to live again. I needed to do more than go through the motions like the fan above me. Cody needed to see that his mom was thriving, not just putting one foot in front of the other. So I had been sidelined, benched really. That sparked an idea.

I sat up and reached for my laptop on the nightstand. I was declaring my independence. Not like the divorce decree hadn’t made that clear already, but it’s different when it’s by choice. I did choose the divorce, but there was no other choice. Neil’s one-night stand turned into a full-blown relationship. He blamed it all on Roxie; she wouldn’t let him be. She threatened and bribed him. He couldn’t say no. Those were all excuses. I had believed his lies of it being a one-night stand. I even tried to work it out, and we sought counseling. The whole time he was still seeing her. I only found out about the pregnancy because I took his car one night. Over the car’s Bluetooth I heard her on his mobile phone when I pulled into the garage. Their conversation came through loud and clear. I heard the distinct words, “I’m pregnant, Neil.”

All the hurt and anger I already felt about his betrayal compounded and left me shattered. The man I had given my all to had decided I wasn’t enough. That was the last night he ever spent in this house. Now he lived in an apartment near downtown Chicago. Roxie lived there too, though he still wouldn’t admit it to me. I’m not sure why he bothered lying. I wondered if he was going to marry her. I asked him once out of masochistic stupidity. I had learned it was better to know the painful truth than live a lie. And I had a right to know because of Cody. He shook his head no, but he wouldn’t look me in the eye.

I turned on my laptop and logged into the blog I had started several years ago chronicling the Higgins Family. When the blog came up, our last family photo taken a year ago on the shores of Lake Michigan stared back at me. I almost lost it, but I was done losing myself. I was going to rediscover Samantha Decker. Tonight, I was more than starting a new chapter. I was ending one book and starting another. I began to type as fast as my fingers and mind would allow.