Perfume

Susan had long suspected that Tim 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.

Susan knew she shouldn’t think this way, but she did.

And even though she knew she should leave him if her suspicions proved accurate, she doubted if she ever could.

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.

Stay together for the kids.

At all costs.  

There was nothing specific that made her cast suspicion. But then he suddenly stopped initiating sex, which in turn, made her realize she never initiated it herself.

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

Sure, he came home late from time to time, but it wasn’t unusual for him to head out at night to get some work done after the kids had gone to bed, as he preferred the distraction 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 all of this time. And if so, then for how long?

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 reminded him.

He reminded her that she did sign up for it. The moment she decided to marry a writer. Bu re-hashing this did neither of them any good. 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 his assurance that he had been going out for the sake of writing, she began to have a real sneaking suspicion that he was up to no good, despite not having a shred of evidence. Then again, was he even capable of having an affair, even if he tried? It wasn’t a matter of him not being 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 weeks later, her suspicions didn’t subside. And then she finally got her answer. While gathering laundry, she found her smoking gun: a floral 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.”

His 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 his colleague had fallen for him, then that would mean that she somehow unearthed the man she had fallen in love with a long time ago. A man she thought was gone forever. Not the annoying sad sack who moped around all day, acting like his life was so deprived.

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.