“I told you I wasn’t ever going to go into sordid details,” Olivia sighed, tired of the drawn out conversation. Dave could be such a little bitch when he wanted to be. She was tired and knew that tomorrow morning was only going to bring a long march of more whining from the kids she’d be chaperoning up to Everett for a field trip on some whale watching boat. She ran her hand longingly over her empty pillow.
“I need to know now. I know I said I was ok with it, but I just …. I can’t take looking at every guy we know and wondering ‘Is it him? Did he know I gave permission? Is he laugh…”
“PERMISSION???” She exploded. “Permission? I for damned sure didn’t need your fucking permission.”
Dave threw up his hands in surrender. “That was a poor choice of words.”
“Yes, the hell it was!”
“I just…..Olivia I can’t take it anymore. I know what we agreed to do, and I have been trying to just let it go, but you know everything about her. Everything. What we did, where we went, how long it went on.” Olivia buried her ears in her hands, willing him to shut up. “Don’t do that, babe. I just need a name. I can’t handle second guessing all our friends. It’s making it worse.”
“Making what worse?” Olivia questioned. “You. Cheated. On. Me. This is not something I brought down on us. You cheated on me. As for my ‘revenge fuck,’ as you wanted to call it, I can promise you it’s no one you know. That’s a guarantee.”
Dave ripped off the covers and paced at the foot of the bed. “You can’t know that. You can’t know that.”
Olivia watched Dave as he fretted at the other side of the room, raking his fingers through his graying hair. The motion caused his well-defined torso to ripple in a way she might otherwise have appreciated. “What’s setting this off, Dave?”
Something in her tone caused him to stand still, hands by his side, and stare at her. “What do you mean?” he said.
“It’s been seven years,” she continued in her measured tones. “Seven years since all this went down, and I thought we were finally past it. I don’t wake up in a panic anymore, imagining you left me for her.” He protested with a sigh and a raised finger, as if he had a point to make, then went back to pacing. “I finally stopped going through your texts. I don’t freak out when you’re a little bit late, or if you have a ‘meeting go late,’” she made air quotes.
“I’m not cheating, if that’s what you mean. I’m not!” He slumped into the armchair, idly stroking the upholstery. “I’m really not, Olivia. There hasn’t been anyone else. I mean, you know, not since then.” Dave looked her straight in the eyes. Olivia flashed back to her friend, the Dave before the tedium of stalled careers and marital spats over who did the dishes or forgot to lock the doors, the Dave before he trashed her heart all over their living room with the power of one phone call.
“OK,” she said. “I believe you. But it’s really still none of your business. Those were the terms.”
“Please, O,” he pleaded quietly, “Please. I didn’t know it would feel like this. I just wanted to say anything to make you stay. I was making a deal I thought would make it all right. I didn’t know it would eat at me for the rest of my goddamned life.”
Olivia rolled her eyes and massaged the back of her neck. “Isn’t that the point, Dave? I didn’t agree to this to make you feel GOOD about yourself. It wasn’t a picnic for me finding out you’d betrayed me while I was pregnant with Shane. Finding out because the bitch called me to cry you’d left her. And this was you, your idea, telling me to go fuck someone. You had that goddamned affair, you brought someone into our marriage while I was pregnant with our son and then told ME to go do the same thing to make it BETTER? And now you’re surprised that it’s not working for YOU? I’m tired. I have an ass-long day tomorrow and I am really actually getting sick of being tired. Sleep on the couch if you want to. I’m done with this for tonight.”
She clicked off the light and left him to find his way in the dark while she curled up on her side, facing the edge of the bed. He fumbled his way across the room, stubbing his toe just the disappointing once. She scowled in the dark as he made his way under the covers, wrapping his arm around her soft middle, cupping the breast nearest the mattress in his way that usually made her feel belonging. Tonight it felt like possession. She shrugged and he released her breast, but kept her waist encircled.
“O,” Dave murmured into her neck. “I know I don’t deserve you. But I love you. I do. I love the family we’ve made. I hate that I fucked it up. But can’t you forgive me?”
“Clearly I forgave you, you’re in my bed,” said Olivia. “Shut up and go to sleep.”
Dave curled his free hand in her hair, resting it on the pillow above her head. “If you forgive me, then we shouldn’t have secrets between us. Not even this.” Olivia stiffened as he changed tack. Sensing a soft spot, he rolled on. “I agree with you babe, I really don’t want to know any details. I just need to clear the air, to keep from wanting to fucking punch every man who ever talks to you.”
Olivia turned her sudden grin to the pillow, trying not to laugh at the absurdity of the image of boxing gym Dave decking an unsuspecting farmer right over the produce stall at the farmer’s market. “Dammit, Dave.”
“Please,” he whispered. “Just a name. Then I will drop it. Forever.”
“Do you promise?” She demanded. “Forever? Done? I’m so sick of this and I want it gone from our lives.”
“Gone. Over. Done.” He squeezed her in affirmation.
She could feel his tension and her own bone-deep fatigue. What the hell. “No one.” The palpable silence raised the volume of her heart to a drumbeat.
“That’s not cute, Olivia.” His tone was clearly annoyed.
“It’s not meant to be. No one. I never did it. I had a 6 month old baby and I wasn’t about to go spill breast milk all over some random guy to make you feel better about your guilt. Maybe you didn’t care who touched me, but I sure as hell did. I wouldn’t have felt clean coming back to Shane like that. And fuck it, I was too goddamned tired for that shit.” She closed her eyes, her long secret finally out.
Dave ripped himself away from her. He stumbled into the nightstand as he propelled himself out of the bed. “You bitch!” He snapped on his light, “You fucking bitch!”
“WHAT?” Wide awake now, Olivia sat upright and turned to face her seething husband. “You should be glad I didn’t give it up to someone. You should realize the value of what I am saying to you. And no more wanting to box the neighbors, yeah?”
“This isn’t funny!” he shouted, stabbing a finger in her direction. “You lied to me. You let me believe we were even, that it was ok. Seven years of this shit, of me wondering, you–you lying!”
Olivia watched him in growing hollow sadness. “For real, Dave?” she said as tears starting to form, tears she vowed not to let fall. “You’re worried about being even? You found out you have a faithful wife and you’re pissed about that?”
“About being tricked? Incensed,” he affirmed with a grunt, snatching his pillow and the blanket folded at the foot of the bed. “I’m sleeping on the couch, you troll.” Dave stalked out of the room, leaving his light on, the door open, and a trail of indignation behind him.
Olivia ignored the door, reached over the bed to switch off Dave’s light, and then curled back into her usual position. Despite the vague ache in her heart, sleep came surely for her. Dave, he could suck it.
***Born in Charleston, SC, Lory French decided at 8 years of age to move to the Puget Sound region. Now a blogger and home educator, French resides in Tacoma with her husband, three children, ten chickens, three dogs and two fish.