Authors: Sarah Louise Smith
Tags: #Fiction & Literature
Sarah Louise Smith
Copyright © 2014 by Sarah Louise Smith
Editor: Jeff Gardiner
Artwork: Crooked Cat
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or Crooked Cat Publishing except for brief quotations used for promotion or in reviews. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
First Red Line Edition, Crooked Cat Publishing Ltd. 2014
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For Mum, with love
About the Author
Sarah Louise Smith lives in Milton Keynes with her husband, a cute cat and a loopy golden retriever. She has an extremely lovely step-daughter and a passion for reading, cooking and travel.
Also by Sarah Louise Smith:
Amy & Zach
Izzy’s Cold Feet
Read Sarah’s blog and connect on social media via:
Thank you very, very much to all of the following people:
You, for buying this book and everyone who bought the first two books and told me they enjoyed them. I love hearing from you on Twitter, Facebook, etc. so please keep getting in touch.
All of my family and friends for their endless support and enthusiasm, especially Mum, Dad, Val, Nan, my siblings, Deborah, Laura, Emma and Becky.
Laurence, Steph and Jeff of Crooked Cat for helping to share Jenny’s tale.
Most of all: Nathaniel and Chloe for being patient, inspiring, encouraging and wonderful to me every single day.
Sarah Louise Smith
Milton Keynes, September 2014
“I slept with someone else.”
These were not the words I’d been expecting to hear that day. In fact, I’d not been expecting to hear them on any day, ever. The day started so well, too.
It was a bright, sunny Saturday morning in August and I woke early and snuck out of the house without waking my husband, nipped to the gym and managed to get through an hour of yoga without falling on my arse for the first time ever.
Next, I went to the supermarket and stocked up on some yummy foodstuffs before returning home feeling good. Life was ticking along nicely and to reward myself for finally attending yoga without embarrassing myself, I ate a large cupcake and flicked through a couple of magazines before hearing Ross get up and move around upstairs. Wentworth, our large soppy golden retriever listened intently as the man of the house showered and came down to give him a rub behind the ears. Then he kissed me on the cheek and told me he was going out to have a pub lunch with his brother.
I was supposed to be working at a wedding that day – I’m a photographer – but it all went wrong when the groom changed his mind at the last minute. I decided to use my free time to go out for an extra long walk with Wentworth and then returned for a long soak in the bath, where I relaxed in the hot bubbles and read my book. You see, it was all going along swimmingly up until about six that evening. The calm before the storm, as they say.
I should have known, really; isn’t it always like this in the movies when something bad is about to happen? Just when you think everything is wonderful and perfect, and you’ve got the content, happy look on your face; that’s when you need to be careful. It’s when you’re at your most vulnerable and it all falls apart.
Ross came home and told me to come into the living room for a minute, which I did. He looked nervous and my first thought was that he’d damaged his car. Or he’d forgotten to pay the credit card again. But as it turned out, it was much, much worse.
Five words, that’s all it took. Five words changed everything.
“I slept with someone else.”
It felt as if someone had taken my breath away. Hot tears rushed to my eyes and I gasped for air. I looked at my husband, at the face I knew so well, and tried to take the words in.
“It was last week. Just the once. It’ll never happen again.”
I swallowed hard to try to stop the tears from falling and looked away from him. I glanced around the living room, which we had painted together only a few months ago in a pale yellow. I thought about that day we redecorated: me kneeling on the floor with a brush, Ross on a ladder with the roller, both of us singing along to the radio. Simple, happy times.
“Babe, say something.”
He continued to watch me, as I stared at the wall.
So sometime between then and now, he’d betrayed me. Seriously? I looked back at him for a few moments, sitting there on the sofa, looking concerned, pale, scared. Was this a sick joke? Was he about to start laughing? Maybe I was dreaming. A nightmare, perhaps? I was tempted to pinch my arm but I couldn’t move.
“What?” I managed to utter. I blinked and a few tears ran down each cheek.
“I’m so sorry, babe,” he said, coming to sit beside me. I studied his handsome face, those brown eyes and messy dark blonde hair and wondered how the person I was supposed to trust most in the world could have betrayed me.
“How?” I asked before swallowing hard again. I could tell I was about to sob uncontrollably but first I wanted to hear the facts. I needed to know how he’d transformed from Mr Perfect to Mr Cheating Bastard without my realising it.
He gulped. “It just happened. Last Saturday, at a bar. I don’t even know her name, I was so drunk Jen. And all week I’ve felt so awful. The guilt has consumed me. I’m really sorry. It honestly doesn’t mean a thing and it’ll never happen again.”
“It doesn’t mean a thing?” I repeated. “Then why did you do it?”
He began a long monologue about regret and mistakes and how stupid he was. He didn’t need to tell me he was stupid, I was becoming pretty aware of that fact on my own.
I just sat there, half-listening, half-wondering if the pasta I’d put on the stove was boiling over yet. I knew I should check. Neither of us was likely to feel like cleaning up the spillage when this conversation was over.
So I got up, went into the kitchen and turned down the heat just in time. Suddenly I wasn’t hungry, so then I decided to turn it off altogether.
“Babe? You okay?”
I turned around to face him. My supposedly loving husband was standing in the kitchen doorway, still looking concerned.
“Say something, babe. Are you okay? I think you might be in shock. What can I do to help?”
Where was I, last Saturday? I was at my friend Hayley’s house overnight, that’s right. So our house was empty.
“Where did you do it?” I asked, trying to piece together what had happened. I suddenly felt very lightheaded.
“What do you mean?” He frowned, as if I was asking a stupid question.
“Where did you screw her?”
“What does that matter?”
“Was it here, in our bed?”
“No, no! Of course not. It was at the Travelodge in town. You have to believe me. I’d never have done anything like this if I wasn’t so wasted.”
“Not so wasted that you could make the decision to go to a hotel, pay for a room, then take your dick out and put it inside another woman?”
“Oh babe, come on, honestly, I hardly remember it. I know it was an awful, horrible thing to do, but it won’t happen again.”
“It shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”
He put his hands on my arms but I shrugged them off and went to stand by the window. I wanted to shout and throw things, but the cloudy haze in my head stopped me thinking straight. How and why had this happened? I couldn’t comprehend it.
“Can I get you a cup of tea, babe?”
“Stop calling me babe.”
“Jenny, I’m sorry. Tell me what to say.”
I turned to face him. “I just don’t understand why.”
I could feel the adrenaline pumping; my heart was beating faster. I wanted to understand this and yet the anger brewing inside me wouldn’t allow me to put coherent thoughts together.
“I was drunk.”
“I’ve been drunk, yet I’ve never cheated on you.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry isn’t enough Ross!” My voice got louder and the angry tone surprised me.
I started shouting at him then, going crazy, calling him names, telling him he was a terrible person. When I calmed down, he started talking quickly.
“You, know, maybe this isn’t all my fault,” he began.
What the hell?
“I mean, perhaps we’ve had a few issues for a while. You spend way too much time with your friends verses me. And you work so hard.”
“And so instead of talking to me like a grown up, you went and shagged someone else?”
“I didn’t realise it was an issue, I think it was a subconscious thing.”
“Oh well, that’s okay then. I may have some subconscious issues myself but I guess I won’t realise them until I have sex with someone else!”
“Jenny, come on. I’m just saying, sometimes I wonder. Sometimes I think you’re a little bit in love with Shane.”
Shane is my gay best friend and I’ve never fancied him. Well, maybe the first time I saw him but only for about thirty minutes before the penny dropped and I realised that I’d never be his type.
We were silent for a few minutes. I closed my eyes again but all I could see was Ross naked with some bimbo, so I opened them again.
“I think you should go,” I said softly.
“Come on, we need to talk about this.”
“I need some space, please just leave.”
“Where am I going to go?”
“I don’t really care.”
“It’s too late to go to my parents.”
“Go to one of your mate’s houses. Or your brother’s.”
“I don’t want to put anyone out.”
“Go to a hotel. You know where the Travelodge is don’t you? Maybe you can have the same room.”
“Please Jenny. I don’t mind you shouting at me, or crying, or whatever, but I can’t understand how being apart will help us fix this.”
I sighed. I needed him to leave me alone to think about this.
“Just go. We can talk tomorrow. Please, Ross. I need some space.”
“Okay, but can we agree not to tell anyone about this?”
“Too embarrassed, are you?”
“Yes, of course I am.”
“Well me too. Pretty humiliated actually.” My throat cracked and suddenly there were tears in my eyes again. This time, I let them go.
“Oh Jen, I’m so sorry,” he wrapped his arms around me and for a moment I let him and sobbed into his shoulder. Then I pictured those arms around someone else and I thought I might be sick.
“Please just go. We can talk tomorrow,” I said, pulling away.
“Okay, if that’s what you want.”
He went upstairs and I stared at the ceiling as I heard him moving around, getting his stuff together. After a few minutes, he appeared in the doorway with a bag and told me he was going to his brother Aiden’s house.
“Okay,” I said, swallowing hard yet again.
“I’ll call you later.”
He came to give me a kiss or a hug, I wasn’t sure which, but I put my hand out to stop him.
“Just go please, Ross.”
And he left.
I was alone. I fell back onto the sofa and cried for a while in the foetal position. Then I lay on my back and stared up the ceiling feeling numb. Was this really happening? I could hardly believe it. Wentworth came and lay beside me, and I stroked his soft, floppy ears, which made me feel a little better.
After a while of feeling sorry for myself, I picked up my mobile with a shaky hand and pressed the right buttons to dial Shane. There was no answer, so I left a tearful message about needing him, which he probably wouldn’t understand. I lay back down on the sofa, expecting a call back reasonably quickly. After an hour I was just wondering what could be more important than handling me in my time of crisis when I heard a knock at the door, making me jump.
I wearily dragged myself from the sofa and found my lovely best friend standing on the doorstep with a carrier bag in one hand and his dog lead in the other.
“Oh, Jenny,” he said. He allowed his little spaniel Annie to run off looking for Wentworth, came in, and shut the front door behind him.
I fell into his arms and let him hold me for a minute while I cried some more. I wasn’t sure where all these tears were coming from. Surely I’d run dry soon.
“I got your message and came straight over. What’s going on?”
“Ross … woman … hotel…” I managed to utter between sobs.
“Oh, Jesus. What a bastard. Come on, let’s go and sit down. I’ve got wine and a chocolate fudge cake.”
A few hours later, I was feeling tipsy from the wine, and a little sick, having consumed most of the fudge cake. I’d insisted I wasn’t hungry when Shane got it out but then slowly spooned it into my mouth until there were only crumbs left. I was leaning on Shane’s shoulder, listening to his soothing voice while he said all the right things about how I was too good for Ross, how I didn’t deserve this, and so on.
“You know what?” Shane said after his long rant.
“You’re the only man I can rely on?”
“Well, yes, but also, you’ll feel better soon. You’ll figure this out.”
“I just thought that was it now … you know? I thought I’d found the man for me and that would be it. And he’s just screwed it all up … Hell, I’m so angry with him!” I leapt up off the sofa and paced around the room.
“Of course you are.”
“I mean, eight years together. Don’t I deserve better than this?”
“Yes you do.”
I slumped next to him and put my head back on his shoulder.
“What am I going to do?”
“You need time to think about it, that’s all. It’ll become clearer. Let it sink in, and then you can evaluate how you feel and what you want to do.”
“You need to get some sleep.”
“I’m sorry. I’ve kept you away from Andrew too long.”
“No it’s fine. He’s visiting his mother tonight and staying over. You know I’m not welcome at the dragon’s den.”
“It’s nice to see you smile.”
“You want to stay over?”
“Sure. If I hear you crying in the night I’ll come in and get one of the dogs to lick your face, cheer you up.”
We said goodnight and I went to lie on my bed with Wentworth, who was rather happy at the extra space and only one human to share the duvet with. I stared at his lovely face and wondered what my next move would be. One thing was becoming clear in my mind: this was the end of my marriage. I would never forgive Ross for this.