Two short sentences, that’s how much it took to shatter her life. She knew that now as she was gazing down on the cell phone screen that seemed to be spitefully glaring back at her. She had had to read the words several times to suspend her disbelief.
Have you told your wife about me? When can I see you again?
Alice was surprised that she didn’t feel anything, not anger or panic or even a hint of pain, as she stood next to the kitchen table with her husband’s phone in her hand. It was as if her whole being had instantly frozen up on the inside, perhaps to protect her from falling apart. But in her mind there was perfect clarity. She knew that her husband was having an affair.
She had suspected that something was wrong, but not that. Lately his demeanor had changed, not a lot, but enough to tell her that something was going on in his life that she did not know about. Because she had not been able to put a finger on what exactly was different about him she hadn’t had a good reason to ask him what was going on. She knew all too well that such conversation would go nowhere. Tom, her husband, was not one to share his innermost thoughts and feelings with others, even his wife. He had told her once that he took pride in keeping his concerns to himself, and that she shouldn’t try to change that. All through their marriage she had learned that he really meant it, and that he had a genuine desire to keep her away from anything unpleasant. Although she knew that this could be expected from any husband who was ten years older than his wife, she had never been able to fully reconcile herself with this trait. On the one hand she found it condescending, and on the other she had always thought that this secretiveness would turn out to be damaging to their marriage.
And now this had happened! Was she a fool now, having decided for all these years to allow him his to keep his secrets? Was she now going to pay the price for trusting him? She could only pray that life would not be that cruel. What would life be worth without being able to trust the people you love, she asked herself.
“Alice!”, a muffled voice suddenly called. It came from the bathroom where Tom had rushed in after having cut himself on a finger. Typically him, he wanted to spare her of the sight of blood. It was then that Alice had picked up his cell phone, which he had left on the kitchen table, and had looked at his messages. She had never done that before, but the little changes she had noticed in him over the last few weeks or so had driven her curiosity to a point where she no longer could restrain it.
“Alice?”, he called again.
“Yeah, what is it?” She tried to sound casual as she put his phone back on the table, in exactly the same place and position as it had been before.
“Where do we keep the bandages? I can’t find them.”
For a few seconds Alice hesitated to answer. What would be the appropriate thing for a wife to say to her husband when she has just found out that he is going to leave her for another woman?, she asked herself. ”On the top shelf”, she called back.
When Tom reemerged in the kitchen with a bandage on his left index finger Alice couldn’t help thinking that it was Karma that had punished him. He looked at her with his brown eyes and the same crooked smile that she had always loved. “Guess you were right”, he said, “I was cutting those carrots too fast”. He took up his phone from the table and looked at it, as if checking for new messages.
“I’m usually right, am I not?”, Alice said while she carefully studied the expression on his face. It didn’t reveal anything.
Tom pulled out a chair and sat down, with his eyes still fixed on his phone. He sighed. “There is something I should tell you…”
Alice could feel her heart pounding. How would she react when he told her that their almost fifteen year long marriage was over? Was she going to break down crying? Or would she fly into a rage? How could she know when this kind of a situation was completely new to her? As she had never even dated any other than Tom, breakups were something she only knew from other people, from magazines and television. “Sounds interesting”, she said with a slight trembling in her voice. She wanted to yell, What about Lucas and Amy, our kids, have you thought about them?
“Well, it is”. Tom looked up from his phone and straight into her eyes. “It seems that I have a daughter I didn’t know about…”
“A daughter…?” Alice gasped. Was that what the message was about?
“Yes, apparently.” Tom shook his head. “I knew her mother many years ago, long before I met you. Now she has tracked me down, and wants to get to know me. And she wants to meet Lucas and Amy. I would like to invite her to our house, but only as long as you are okay with it…”
The next thing Tom knew was Alice holding her arms around him so tight that he almost couldn’t breathe. “Of course you can! That’s wonderful! Wonderful!”, she sobbed.