Authors: Tamar Cohen
A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2011 by Tamar Cohen
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Free Press Subsidiary Rights
Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
First Free Press hardcover edition June 2011
FREE PRESS and colophon are trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at
Designed by Carla Jayne Jones
Manufactured in the United States of America
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The mistress’s revenge : a novel / by Tamar Cohen.
1. Mistresses—Fiction. 2. Married men—Fiction. 3. Adultery—Fiction. 4. Marriage—Fiction. 5. Separation (Psychology)—Fiction. I. Title.
PR6103.O42M57 2011 2010047606
ISBN 978-1-4516-3286-6 (ebook)
For Jake, because the middle isn’t so bad
et me start by explaining.
I know you might see this as incendiary, malicious, even creepy. Call it what you will. But believe me, nothing is further from the truth. The fact is I’ve been to see a therapist, just as you advised me. So thoughtful of you to think of it. “I know you think it’s mumbo jumbo, so did I, but believe me you’ll see the benefits,” you urged me in your most concerned voice right after York Way Friday when you were still in full guilt mode. And how right you were. I’m seeing the benefits already, I really am. Anyway, she told me—incidentally her name is Helen Bunion, can you believe that? And she tilts her head to the side when I talk, like a little sparrow. I think it’s supposed to let me know I have her complete undivided attention—she told me that getting it all “out there” would be a vital part of my recovery process.
That’s exactly how she said it: “a vital part of your recovery process.” So what can I do? I don’t want to impede my recovery process, and Helen Bunion really is so very concerned about my welfare, so out there it shall get!
Now, I’m aware you will worry about the risk of other people reading this and it all becoming public, and believe me if I can get this out there without risking exposure and all the problems that will bring, of course I will do it. I have only your best interests at heart. You know that. But I’m sure you understand, having experienced the benefits of therapy yourself, that one has to be totally honest (no, what’s that word they use instead these days? “Transparent.” Totally transparent) no matter how painful. So that’s what I shall be. As part of my recovery process. I can feel it working already. Thank you so much for suggesting it.
Helen Bunion—she wants me to call her Helen, and you can quite understand why, but I find it so difficult. It’s like calling a teacher by her first name, quite wrong somehow—has told me I should be journaling my emotions.
Did you know that was a verb now? “To journal”? It’s one of those funny made-up verbs that really ought to remain nouns, like “to impact.” Helen used that one too, funnily enough. She said you’d “impacted catastrophically” on my life. “Catastrophically” is a very strong word, don’t you think? Still, you’d imagine a trained therapist would know what they were talking about, wouldn’t you, so I’ll have to assume she has some basis.
So now I’m to journal my emotions. This too will be a fundamental part of my recovery process, or so I’m led to believe. I’m actually quite looking forward to it. Since you’ve been gone, I’ve missed having someone to talk to. Remember how we used to dissect every last detail of our lives in those interminable emails we pinged back and forth between ourselves all day long? “Our relationship would never have got off the ground if we’d had ‘proper’ jobs,” you often said, making the phrase “proper jobs” sound like something black and slimy you’d found in your salad. And you were of course right. Fifty, seventy, a hundred emails a day, only possible because we both spend so much time online, sitting solitarily in front of computer screens for hours at a stretch—you at the swanky Fitzrovia offices of the record company where you were both boss and star producer, or else in your small but perfectly formed study converted from the box room at the top of your detached, pale pink St. John’s Wood villa—(I know you’ve always maintained you like the view over the gardens and the rooftops, but that room, little more than a jumped-up cupboard, always seemed such a perverse choice when you could have had the run of the house. “Sad fuck in a box” you used to head your emails); me, largely staring into space in my partitioned cubbyhole in my shabby, three-bed terrace.
“Musings of a sad fuck in a box.” The message would ping into my inbox. That heading would go back and forth as the thread grew longer—“musings of a sad fuck in a box no. 99” or I’d change it to “musings of an invisible woman in a cubbyhole.” Longer and longer, more and more messages, cataloguing the minutiae of our lives. Every incident in my day was jealously hoarded to be given to you later in an email as a gift. Locking myself out while putting out the rubbish! Buying a Saturday Guardian in Tesco only to find someone had already swiped the Guide section! Only now when there is no one to give
them to, and no one who would want them anyway, do I realize how worthless these mundanities were all along.
Who else would be interested in the disastrous meals I make for the kids (yes, still stuck on fajitas I’m afraid—how amusing you always found my two-dish culinary repertoire) or the fact that the grumpy old man who came to read the gas meter told me off for having so many boxes and bags cluttering the cupboard under the stairs? “You’re putting me at risk,” he told me. Isn’t that hysterical? Putting him at risk.
I suppose I could tell these things to Helen Bunion and she would tilt her birdie head at me and listen intently and nod a bit and go “mmmm” in an encouraging and eminently empathetic way, but it wouldn’t be quite the same. And not a very efficient use of £75 an hour! I must say it was very good of you to make me feel there was value in my nonsense. I wonder what you do with all that free time you must have now you no longer have to read it.
his journaling is a marvelous thing. Really, I don’t know where I’d be without it. It’s making me see that honesty, sorry—transparency—really is the key. I feel lighter already. Of course, you were always the big advocate of honesty. “I feel like telling Susan everything,” you’d declare impetuously. “I don’t want this to be a hidden thing. That’s not the way I feel about you. I want the whole world to know about ‘us.’” The truth would set us free, you always said. And yet, in the end when I suggested (okay, begged, I’ll admit, is probably more strictly accurate) that we come completely clean and let your wife and my “partner” (was there ever a more mealymouthed term?) make up their own minds based on all the facts, the truth was suddenly something else, some destructive force that Susan and Daniel needed protecting from. Such a good handle you have on all those subtle nuances. Left to my own devices I’d never really understand the difference.
* * *
ian called in again today. She does that a lot these days. I think she’s trying to catch me out, trying to catch me not coping.
“I feel so responsible,” was her constant refrain after York Way Friday. “I colluded in your affair. I was an enabler.”
She actually used that word as well. Enabler. When did we all become so fluent in therapy-speak, I wonder?
Still, she had a point I suppose. Where would we have been without Sian acting as an alibi while I swept off into the night to meet you, or joining us for dinner and pretending not to notice as the two of us held hands under the table?
“She’s getting a vicarious thrill out of this,” you used to tell me, and undoubtedly there was an element of truth in that.
You never could really see the point of Sian, could you? In a sense you are right. She’s the one college friend I have who, long past the point where I outgrew the rest, has somehow managed to remain stuck onto my life like a stray Post-it note clinging to the back of a suit jacket. Until the affair started we had precious few points of connection left, she and I. I’ve often said that Sian wears her long-term single status like an aggressive T-shirt slogan, still insisting that hers is a lifestyle choice. Remember your TV producer friend’s dinner party that you took the two of us to, where she flirted with all the men and regaled the rest of us with lurid tales of twenty-five-year-olds she has slept with (funny how they are always “gorgeous,” these young lovers, though nobody ever seems to meet any of them), then ended up slumped in a beanbag and had to be deposited home in a taxi? Happy to collude with anything that challenged the prevailing Couple Mafia, as she calls it, she was glad at first to enable our affair. That’s why, in spite of her oft-declared affection for Daniel (“we get each other completely,” she once told you. Do you remember that? How scathing you were?) she encouraged us along, you and I, swept up in the breathless illusion of romance with its reassuring elevation of passion over partnership.
“If it’s any consolation, Sally, he had me fooled as well,” she told me today, shaking her head sadly. “I was totally deceived by him. I feel let down.”
Does that surprise you, Clive, the indirect effect of your betrayal? The way even my best friend feels let down by proxy?
To her credit, Sian has been through a lot over the past few months—scraped me off the floor more than once, if that’s not too hackneyed an analogy. (Imagine me a bit like congealing fat on the kitchen linoleum, the kind of thing you’d have to dig at vigorously with a sharp knife.) Sian first reacted to news of the York Way Friday bombshell with stunned disbelief. “He couldn’t have...,” “surely he can’t have...,” “I can’t believe he has....” But that soon passed into anger. “How could he have...,” “how dare he have....” She feels her faith in human nature, never terribly robust, has been severely tested. She feels misled.
“You’ll get over him soon,” she told me today. “You’ll see him for what he is and then, pffff, the scales will fall from your eyes.”
Pffff. As easy as that.
I told her I couldn’t wait. And then, because it would make her happy and because I wanted it to be true, I told her it was starting to happen already. “I’m really making progress,” I said.
And of course I am making progress. Really, I am. Some days I go for long minutes without thinking about you at all.
Sian looked pleased when I told her the thing about the progress.
“I have to be honest, I’ve been worried about you,” she told me. “You haven’t been yourself recently.”
I didn’t bother telling her that myself was the very last person I’d want to be.
ian was still here when Tilly and Jamie came home from school.
Do you know, more and more, I find myself surprised each day when they burst in through the door? Does that sound awful? It’s like as soon as my children go out in the mornings, and I’m left here on my own, they cease to exist, and when they come back in the afternoon, I have to relearn them all over again. Does everyone feel like that? Well, you’d know, I suppose, as you’ve been through it all before. I miss asking your advice on things like that.