I sat in the living room. There was a book in my hands and my eyes slid over the pages, but none of the words left behind any meaning. I don’t even know what book it was that I had sat down with. My thoughts were centered on Houston, and it was making my heart ache.
“Mama, where’s Dad all the time? He’s hardly ever at dinner.”
Joshua had started to notice how often Houston was out of the house. He was always around on weekends, playing with Joshua and lavishing attention on baby Nora, but it wasn’t hard to notice how frequently he was gone. I told Joshua that he just had to work a lot; I don’t think I was very convincing because he kept looking at me with concern. A boy shouldn’t look so concerned about his parents at only five.
When I heard the rumble of an engine, I put the book down and went upstairs. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and wondered how I had allowed my life to become this. I knew now why Shirley had been like a zombie after breaking up with Camille; I felt hollowed out inside, and I hadn’t even had confirmation.
Maybe he really is hanging out with the guys or working. That was always what he said he was doing. He’d never given me a reason to disbelieve him.
Except that I was the reason to disbelieve him. He had cheated on his first wife, Kelsey, with me. My eyes burned as I stared into the mirror, forcing myself to see what I didn’t want to. Now he was cheating on me, too.
I heard the faint creak of the stairs and I turned off the bathroom light and went into the bedroom. It had to be done. We had to talk. No matter how much I might wish that I could go on loving and living with him with my suspicions.
Houston hesitated in the doorway, surprised to find me still up. “Hads, what are you doing up? It’s late.” He couched his words in concern, but I can tell he’s on-edge now.
I sat down on the edge of the bed. “Houston, be honest with me. Are you having an affair?”
He froze like a deer caught in the headlights. “Hadley, what are you talking about? You know I love you.”
I took a slow breath and forced back the urge to burst into tears. I had to be strong now. I couldn’t give in to his honey-rich voice or his eyes that pleaded with me not to continue this conversation. “You know exactly what I’m talking about. I need to know the truth. I deserve the truth.”
He stayed silent for so long that I thought I was going to have to ask him again. Finally, he opened his mouth and let out a huge breath. “I’m seeing another woman.”
Even though I had known, hearing him say the words was still the most awful pain I had felt since giving birth. Tears burned at my eyes. “How could you do this, Houston? We have a family together.” I had been so worried about my sister’s heart, I hadn’t spent enough time looking after mine.
He sank down next to me on the bed. “I met her at the station. She’s the sister of one of the guys I work with. We hit it off and…I’ve been so conflicted, Hadley! You don’t know how much this has torn at me. I’m so sorry. I just don’t know what to do.”
Part of me – a big part of me – wanted to forgive him and tell him that we could forget about it. But I couldn’t do that. It would just happen again. Once a cheater, always a cheater. “You don’t have to be conflicted anymore.” I rose to my feet, pleased that my knees didn’t buckle. “It would be best if you moved out. It’s late, so you can sleep downstairs on the couch tonight. But tomorrow, you have to find a new place to live.”
Houston got up, reaching out to me. “Hads, please. I’m sorry. I’ll stop seeing her. I never meant to let it get this far. I don’t want to lose you – or the kids!”
“Keep your voice down,” I admonished quietly. Joshua didn’t need to hear this. He didn’t need to see his parent’s marriage fall apart. “Even if you stop seeing her, you’ll end up with someone else. It’s what you do. I’ll never keep Joshua or Nora away from you. I know that you love them.”
He hung his head and said softly, “I love you, too, Hads. I really do.”
I believed that. I truly did. But, as I was learning, sometimes, love wasn’t enough. “I know.”
I watched him leave the room before I sank down onto the bed and started to cry.
I stood at the kitchen window, looking out. Houston and Joshua were coming up the stairs. Now they had entered the house and I heard their voices. They were laughing about a baseball game that Houston took him to the day before. I turned towards the living room, just watching them together.
In the two months since Houston and I separated, he’s found a place for himself with room for the kids. I would hardly say that our divorce is amicable, but we’re both polite to each other. Joshua spends Wednesday evenings and every other weekend with him; Nora, we decided, is still too young to go jumping houses, so he sees her whenever he drops Joshua off and for a few hours on the Saturday’s that Joshua is with me.
I hate seeing him. I hate looking into his face and making inane conversation, pretending that I don’t still love him. Pretending that I don’t miss him. I hate biting back the words, “I miss you. I’m sorry. I was wrong. Come home.” I always stop myself before saying it. As unhappy as I am now, it’s better in the long run. He can only break my heart once if I leave him now.
I remembered my dreams of our happy marriage and family. It seems now like a lifetime ago that I found out I was pregnant with Joshua. I had been so very hopeful. Now, I know that Houston isn’t meant to be a husband; he makes a terrible one. But, watching him with Joshua now, I realize he does make a good father. And that, at least, gives me some satisfaction.
A/N: Sorry for Joshua’s different clothes in the last three pics. I took the last two at an earlier date and didn’t notice until I’d already uploaded the pictures. Sorry – I’m lazy.