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The Long Way

It rarely rains in Los Angeles in October. Yet there it was, a wall of rain coming down as I tried to make my way to the grocery store. My wind shield wipers could barely keep up and left huge streaks reminding me that I needed to go to Shucks and get new wipers for my car and Jennifer’s car.

I planned to make seafood fettuccine for our anniversary dinner. Today was our fifth wedding anniversary. When I reached the grocery store parking lot I circled a few times hoping to get a spot closest to the door so that I wouldn’t get soaked. I looked up at the temperature gauge in my jeep and saw that it was sixty-eight. Still pretty warm.  

There were about five cars circling the lot waiting for a closer spot to open. I saw someone walking toward me juggling keys and a bag of groceries. She stopped right in front of me. Perfect, this was as close as I was going to get. She tossed her bag into the backseat of her Honda and  pulled out in front of me, I had to put my car in reverse and inch back a few feet to give her enough room. Just as she pulled away I saw headlights turn in front of me and park in the spot, my spot. Damnit!

She was a young thing, in her early twenties. I guess I was still pretty young too, only just thirty. She got out of the car and ran into the store. She had a very nice ass. A car honked behind me. It startled me into action. I pulled into a spot that was about in the middle of the lot. I scoured my back seats for an umbrella or coat or anything I could put over my head. Nothing. I made a run for it.

I grabbed my cart and headed toward the seafood section. My flip flops squeaking against the linoleum floor at each step.  The store was florescent bright in comparison to the dark clouds that loomed outside.  After I grabbed clams, halibut, shrimp, and salmon, I turned down the pasta and sauces aisle.  

She stood in front of the canned fruit holding a can of mandarin oranges. She looked up at me as I passed and her eyes flickered with acknowledgement. “Hey, aren’t you Jennifer’s husband?” she asked. “I, yeah, I’m sorry I don’t remember your name,” I replied. “Oh, I’m Molly. I work with Jen in accounting,” she replied. “We met at the Christmas party a couple months ago,” she added.

I vaguely remembered her or that Christmas party. From what I did remember, I made a complete ass out of myself in vengeance. “Jen’s boss hired me as an intern and then brought me on full time after I finished college,” she said. So, I was right. That put her at about twenty-three. Her blonde hair fell down well past her shoulders framing her face. She was very attractive.  

“Hey, I was planning to walk over to Starbucks after and grab some coffee. This weather has got me down,” she said. I nodded in agreement with that. Most Californians do not like the rain.  “Would you like to join me?” she asked. Before I could stop myself I agreed to meet her over there after I finished up with my shopping. She agreed and headed off toward the cashier.

I found myself hurrying through the rest of the list my heart beating wildly. It had been years since a girl had shown any interest in me at all. Wait, what was I thinking, I was married and shopping for an anniversary dinner that I was about to make. I couldn’t go to coffee. Not with someone that Jen knows. It was weird how she referred to her as Jen. Only I call her that, and her family.

The rain had let up a little but the clouds seemed even darker than before hanging like a blanket that could hide anything. I told myself that I was just going to get back into my car and drive home. That’s the kind of person I was. I wasn’t the kind of person to go have coffee with a strange, beautiful girl.

But there I was sipping on a short caramel macchiato, another thing I usually don’t allow myself to do, ever since I’ve focused on keeping in shape. We talked for a few minutes about how she liked working in the accounting department and asked me what I do although I had a suspicion that she already knew.

She quieted down and seemed to be focusing intently on the foam at the top of her cup. Then she spoke and what she said made my heart plunge into my stomach. “I know about you and Jennifer,” she said. It came out like she was admitting to a lie. She was looking at me, watching my face. Did I know what she was talking about?

I thought I knew and my emotions caught in my chest like wildfire. My heart hammered as pure anger raced through my veins. I had told only one person. My brother. And here, Jen had told an intern. A twenty-fucking-two year old intern. The words what the fuck charged across my head like an insult.

“It wasn’t Jen that told me,” she said. Oh great, that was supposed to make me feel a whole lot better. Now she had heard hear say, which means what, that her entire department knows, the entire office? I felt like throwing up.

She could tell that I wasn’t taking the news well. “Let me explain. Let me explain why I am here,” she said. Why she was here, wasn’t this a coincidence?  She had stolen his parking spot to get into the store to grocery shop. What the fuck?

“This isn’t easy to say and I want you to know that normally I wouldn’t get involved, but when I met you at the Christmas party a few months ago, well, I like you and it really bothered me and I wanted to help you, I have been thinking about it ever since” she said. Finally I found my voice, “Help me?” I asked condescendingly.

“Listen,” she said. “My apartment is just down the street. Could we go there to talk in private?” she asked. Her face softened waiting for a reply. I felt my emotions calm slightly replaced with curiosity about how she found out and what she might know. “Sure,” I said quietly. We got up and headed toward our cars. “Why don’t you ride with me? It will be easier,” she said. “Fine,” I replied.

In the car, I clicked in my seat belt. She began to explain things more clearly. Her and Jen had become pretty good friends. They had both been in the same sorority at USC. The story took a twist that I was not ready for. At USC she had been involved with a couple women.  My body stopped moving and I didn’t make a sound as I let her words sink in. at some level everything she was telling me felt right.

My head was swimming by the time we reached her apartment. We got out and walked up two flights of stairs. She opened the door to her apartment, which was small, but well decorated. “Can I get you anything?” she asked. “No, thanks. Well, how about some water?” I asked. 

We sat on her couch, each of us on separate ends. I began peppering her with questions. I wanted details. I was sick and tired of not knowing. Not knowing why my own wife had never had sex with me before. She had given me many reasons, well not really reasons, more like excuses. We didn’t have sex before we got married because she wanted to wait. Then she didn’t want to have sex on our wedding night because she was too tired. Later it became clear to me that she was terrified of have sex.

We had tried everything from counseling to going to her OBGYN just to make sure that she was capable. The hurt and rejection ran deep. So deep in fact that I had killed off that piece of me completely just to cope. In the beginning I would take care of myself, but then I gave that up, and let it go, for the sake of our marriage.  I had confided in my brother only, after about a year. He told me to get a hooker. That was the last time I talked about it.

I was lost in thought. Molly brought me back to reality. “I followed you to the store this morning,” she confessed. “Why?” “Because I know that today is your anniversary and like I said before, when I met you at the party, I really liked you. And, Jen, she is having an affair,” she blurted out. By this point I had gone through such a fierce range of emotion that the latest bit of information stung only a little, although I new that wouldn’t last. I sipped on my water calculating if I really wanted to ask a follow up question.

“With who?” I managed. Molly’s eyes fell to the floor. “With me,” she said. Tears pooled at her eyelids and fell streaking her cheeks. I was completely speechless.  “I don’t blame her.” I said. The words hung in the air like the dark clouds looming just outside. Molly managed a weak smile.

She moved in closer to me and rested a hand on my leg. I flinched. “I just want you to know that I am sorry,” she said. “Yeah?” I asked. I felt like my body had been squeezed dry like an orange in a juicer. The water I sipped rusted on my tongue.  “I want you to know that I like you too,” she said. I didn’t answer her. Instead I reached for her hair. Her long blonde hair and pulled her onto me. I didn’t care anymore about wrong or right. I was going to take this and then I would find a new life. I would start over again.

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