I spend a long time in the shower, then spend a long time rubbing cocoa butter lotion into my skin and brushing my teeth. I rub a towel over the mirror to wipe away the steam and get a glimpse of my face.
I look old. And tired. My eyes are dull. There are crow’s feet creeping up around them. My cheeks are sunken and my mouth is framed by laugh line, except I’m not laughing. Every other day, I pluck another wiry grey hair from my scalp.
Is there any wonder why my husband wasn’t paying attention to me?
I wrap a bath sheet around my body, tucking the end in between my breasts and open the door to the bedroom. To my surprise, Willard is lying on the bed, fully clothed except for his shoes. One ankle is crossed over the other. At my appearance from the bathroom, he presses a button to mute the canned laughter of a sitcom on the TV he mounted above the bureau.
“You save me any hot water?”
I’m so surprised that he’s speaking to me that I stand there, mute for a few moments. When he tilts his head toward me, I snap from my reverie.
“Uh, sure. There should be enough water for a shower.”
He sits up, then drops his feet from the bed to the floor and stalks toward the bathroom. “Great. I’ll hop in then before I head to the other room.” My heart sinks. He still plans to sleep in the guest room.
Feeling defeated, I slowly go through the motions of getting ready for bed: I put on a nightgown, one in emerald green, Willard’s favorite color. There are sexy, wispy spaghetti straps, well formed cups for my breasts and it hits me about mid-thigh. Just in case he decides to sleep in our bed, I don’t want to be wearing something my grandmother would wear. I consider tying my hair back in a scarf but opt not to.Instead, I rub a towel through my hair and slip into bed. I leave a single lamp lit and I wait for Willard.
I hear the water turn off, the door to the glassed-in shower click shut. The linen closet door open, then shut. Sounds of a soft cotton towel rubbing against skin. The door opens, spilling steam and the manly scent of Willard’s body wash into the room.
His nightly routine is painful to watch while I’m waiting to see if he’s going to keep treating me like I’m not here. With a towel wrapped around his torso, Willard moves through the room toward the bureau, slides open a drawer, picks out a pair of white briefs and slips them on, tossing the towel away, into the pile of laundry in the closet. He slaps some lotion onto his arms, legs and chest. Brushes his hair, applies deodorant to his underarms. All without a word.
Finally he turns to face me. I’m in the bed, on the left side—my side– the sheets and comforter gathered around my waist so he can see the nightgown I chose to wear, because it’s his favorite.
He smiles, but the smile is… off. “You wear that for him, too?”
“What?” I mean, I heard him, but… he didn’t just ask me that, did he?
“You heard me. Did you wear that for him too? Does he like that nightgown? Does he like you in green, Debra? What’s his favorite color, huh?”
He turns, opens a drawer and rifles through my stash of silky, slinky fabrics. He pulls out a black lace number that I only wore once because it made me itch. I remember Willard laughed when he took it off me and I was so grateful, not because he was being romantic but because I was about to go crazy from the itching.
“Did he like this one? Did you wear this one for him?”
“Willard…” I’m trying to remain calm but he’s not making this easy. “Don’t do this, please.”
“Don’t do what? Don’t ask my wife if the other man she’s fucking likes her in the lingerie that I bought her, that she wore for me? How thrifty of you, to wear them for him, too. You know what we call that in accounting? Cost of Use. When you buy something that’s expensive, but you get so much use out of it that it’s actually cost effective. So this…” He tosses the gown to the floor. “Has a low cost of use.”
“Willard, honey, I think we should talk—“
“About what?” He laughs, but his laughter isn’t happy. “About what, Debra? About how you looked me in my face every damn day while you were fucking that other man—“
“Lower your voice, please.”
“Lower my voice, she says. Lower my—don’t tell me to lower my voice. Are you afraid your twelve year old might hear about how Mrs. Macklin is doing one of the teachers?”
“Just tell me how, Debra. Just tell me how you come home to me, to our daughter every day after being with him? Tell me, because it seems to me that cheating is a choice you make. And you were doing this for almost a year? That’s a lot of choices. Over and over and over again, you chose him over me. Over Kendra. Over us.”
He shakes his head, stomps toward the bed and snatches his pillow from his side. He grumbles, more to himself, but I’m meant to hear it.
“I don’t have anything to say to you. And you don’t have a damn thing to say to me.”
The door slams in his wake.
I sit, still on what has been my side of the bed for over fifteen years, staring at the closed door. The unshed tears blur my vision.
He’s not going to forgive me.
And while I’m not surprised, I’m so heartbroken.