She had long suspected that he was fucking someone on the side. But she was too tired and too complacent– to do anything about it.

But he wasn’t entirely to blame.

She was the one who urged her husband to seek greener pastures. As far as carnal pleasures were concerned.

But she was now becoming increasingly aware of how reckless and damaging her actions were. And there was no turning back.

Truth be told, she never actually thought he would go through with it, but now that she suspected he had, there was no turning back. So why not leave him?

Because he was a good father. And because she was determined to do whatever she could to keep the family together…no matter how unhappy she was with their marriage. She wholeheartedly believed in staying together for the kids. At all costs. And if him finding sex on the side meant he would no longer pester her for sex (or, any physical intimacy for that matter), then she could lay that baby to rest once and for all.

“If you still need sex, then you can find it with someone else,” she blurted out after he not-so-subtly hinted at the fact that that they hadn’t had sex in two months. It wasn’t something that she had given any pre-meditated thought to. But once she said, she didn’t regret it.

“You can’t be serious,” he said, clearly hurt. In fact, it was as though she had just told him to go fuck himself.

And, of course he knew exactly how long it had been. As far as she knew, it just as easily of been two days, two weeks, or two months and it wouldn’t have made a difference in her mind.

“If sex is what you want, then I’m telling you can still go find it!”

“This isn’t only about sex!”

“Of course it is.”

And then he began to cry.

“Stop,” she barked.

“I just don’t understand…”

“There is nothing to understand.”
“You mean to tell me if I hooked up with somebody, you wouldn’t leave me over it.”

“No, I wouldn’t.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“I don’t necessarily want to know about it. Three rules: Don’t ask, don’t tell. As long as you don’t fall in love. And just as long it isn’t somebody we both already know.”

“What about you?”

“What about me?”
“Are you going to find it elsewhere, too?”

“No. That is the whole point. I. DON’T. LIKE. SEX.”

The truth of the matter was, she didn’t like sex…with him. Maybe with another person, it would be different. Something she desired. Then again, couldn’t even remember the last time she had the desire to masturbate – something she used to do on a semi-frequent basis.

“If you decide to do this,” she went on to say, “Here are the rules:  never with anyone we both know and don’t fall in love. And don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Though he said nothing in response, she could tell that he was at least thinking about it. So she decided to quit while she was ahead and retreat to her bedroom filled with an overwhelming sense of relief.  Even if he ultimately didn’t find someone else, perhaps the hunt itself would be enough to keep him distracted enough to keep him off her back.

Weeks passed and nothing seemed to suggest that he had succeeded. He still hinted at sex here and there, but the frequency certainly seemed tempered.

But it wasn’t long before he stopped asking all altogether.

What did it all mean? Did he simply give up? Or, did he somehow manage to find someone else?

She did notice that he came home late from time to time, but then again, it wasn’t unusual for him to head out at night to get work done after the kids had gone to bed, as he preferred the distractions of a public setting, rather than quiet solitude. This especially was the case when he was working under deadline, but to her knowledge, he hadn’t had a write-for-hire gig in quite some time.

Since she went to bed hours before she, she didn’t even always know when he went out. Or, when he even came home for that matter, as they slept in separate rooms.

Was he really going out to write? Or, was she living in denial?

She finally asked him about and he admitted that he was poking around on new material, while actively seeking freelance work. He was hesitant to admit this because she had recently expressed frustration with his constant need to write. She didn’t understand why his teaching job wasn’t enough. And though he claimed it didn’t interfere with his parenting obligations, she disagreed. She would never deny that he was a good father, there was no question that his writing ambitions often left him distracted. And aloof. And the more time had passed, the more resentful she had become.

“I didn’t sign up for this,” she had said.

He claimed that she did the moment she decided to marry a writer.

And though he had a point, she refused to acknowledge it. And neither one brought it up again They had since reached an impasse, becoming more and more like the disinterested roommates they now were, with neither one realizing how much their relationship had eroded until it was too late.

Despite her edict for him to find someone else to fuck, she never saw anything suspicious. Nor, did she think he was capable of going through with it – even if he tried. No because he wasn’t attractive – she objectively knew he was, even though she no longer subjectively found herself attracted to him. She just didn’t believe he had the confidence to go through it. Or, if he tried, he was likely to fall flat on his face.

A few months passed without any obvious signs that he followed through with her edict – unless she counted the fact that he had flat out stopped asking for sex at this point. Had he simply given up? Did he find someone else? Or, did he give up on that, too? Had he even tried at all?

A few weeks later, she finally got her answer. While gathering laundry, she found her smoking gun: a vanilla scent on the clothes he wore the day before. The next morning, she detected a slight trace of the same scent on him as he walked past her. She bit her tongue. She knew the deal, but was taken aback by a low simmer of unexpected jealousy.

Was it a one-time thing? Was it a regular occurrence and she simply never noticed it before? Did she really want to know?

A few days passed before she noticed the scent again.

A few days later, she detected it on him at breakfast. This time, she couldn’t bite her any longer.

“Could you try to cover it up next time?”

“What?” he asked, cluelessly putting a spoonful of cereal into his mouth.

“You know what.”

“I really don’t.”

“The perfume.”

He jaw dropped as though he had just seen a ghost.

“Oh, well, I can explain…”

“Okay. Then explain,” she said, her jealousy and anger growing in equal measure.

“Strip club.”

She believed him. And though disgusted, she was secretly relieved. Though, not happy with the fact that he probably wasted God knows how much money.

I guess she preferred it this way. And she reminded herself that at least he wasn’t pestering her for sex anymore. And then she realized something…she kind of missed it.

And though she believed him, she couldn’t help but feel her simmering jealousy turning into a low boil. And her doubt growing like a tumor.

Several months went by without further incident. She assumed he was doing a better job of hiding the evidence. She considered checking his phone, but refused to allow herself to resort to that.

And then came along her husband’s holiday party,

She couldn’t help but notice that he was extra chatty with a colleague that she knew fairly well. They had hung out in a larger group in the past a few times here and there. And though he had given her reason to suspect anything, she was discovering that jealousy could morph into paranoia.

She continued to watch from afar, looking for signs of something there – a discreet touch, a flirtatious gaze. Something that would suggest something was happening. But beyond talking, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Perhaps she was just being paranoid. Besides, she honestly didn’t think he would have the guts to make a move. And if he somehow did anyway, then he would be in direct violation of their agreement: not to fuck somebody they both knew.

And then it dawned on her, followed by an overwhelming sense of sadness: if she had fallen for him then that would mean that she somehow unearthed the man she had fallen in love with a long time ago that she thought was gone forever. Not the annoying sad sack who moped around all day, acting like his life was so deprived. She would much prefer that he filled the void with his vanilla-scented stripper.

The night wore on, but she eventually, she got answer.While passing her by in the hallway on the way toward the bathroom.

A familiar scent.

And a friendly hello.