The office wasn’t what Lois had expected. The walls were eggshell blue and the furniture was feminine and comfortable. There was even a vase of fresh roses on a low glass coffee table.
‘I’ve never had therapy before.’ Lois flicked a glance at the therapist Helena, a tall handsome woman with a mass of copper curls, vaguely similar to her own.
‘First time for everything,’ Helena said in a low, talking-someone-down-from-the-roof voice, and ushered her toward a large armchair alongside a plush velvet chaise longue.
Lois chose the chaise longue but perched on the edge. ‘I don’t have to lie down, do I?’
‘Only if you want to,’ Helena said, with a soothing smile.
Lois straightened her shoulders, clamped her knees together, and clasped her handbag on her knees. ‘I don’t.’
Helena wheeled her leather chair a comfortable distance from Lois and sat down, crossing her legs. She opened a note pad. ‘I can record the session if you prefer. Some clients find it distracting if I’m scribbling away.’
‘Oh.’ Lois gave a tiny shrug. ‘No, no, I don’t mind.’
‘You’re better off if I take notes,’ Helena said cheerily. ‘No one can read my handwriting. Not even me.’
Lois took a fortifying breath. ‘I really don’t know where to begin.’
‘Wherever you want. Why not start with this morning? Something simple like … what did you have for breakfast?’
Lois gasped, ‘I’m not spending $180 an hour to talk about breakfast.’
‘Well, then.’ Helena looked pointedly at the large brass and glass clock above her desk. ‘Better talk fast and get your money’s worth.’
The wife always knows. Even when she doesn’t know, she knows. His sudden interest in motorbikes, convertibles, and the flatness of his stomach should have been huge flashing neon signs, but they weren’t. To tell the truth it wasn’t so much what he had done to me, but my blindness to it.
Despite a tsunami of social media, books, expensive magazines, and the programmes I binge watch on Netflix; despite all these avenues of information that outlined every crappy thing husbands can do to their wives, I’d fallen for it.
I feel betrayed. I hate him so much; it feels as if my skin will crawl right off me. The knowledge that he pledged his love and his life to me, in front of God and 140 friends and family members, then cheated, makes me want to rip him into pieces.
I was a good wife. I worked full-time throughout our marriage, apart from the years I took off to birth his children. He was never great with responsibility, so I took care of the admin that goes along with a grown-up life. Of course everything remained in his name so I didn’t damage his pride, but I made it all happen – from paying the mortgage, bills, insurances and car registrations, to doing the weekly shop. I even bought his clothes. I gave him every pair of socks and undies he ever used.
Our children – the ones he never parented – are in raptures over the fact we’re separating. They’ve managed to scam theme parks visits, iPads and the latest PlayStation out of their father since they’ve climbed aboard his guilt train.
I know if they get to choose between me, with my rules and boundaries, or their father, who has the psyche of a nine-year-old, they’ll choose him. He knows this too, and is expecting an almighty battle from me over custody and marriage property.
So, I’ve decided that’s not going to happen. He can have the house and the kids. He can move his lover in with my blessing. Two demanding, self-absorbed, post-millennials will destroy their relationship faster than a cat down a waterslide.
I’ve had enough. I’m moving on and doing something with my life, something meaningful, selfish and fun. I have transferred all of our money to a secret rainy-day bank account on a tropical island, where I will be joining it.
Lois didn’t realise she hadn’t said any of this aloud until Helena cleared her throat.
‘We could start absolutely anywhere. It’s up to you.’ She leaned forward, pen poised. ‘Why don’t you tell me what you were thinking about just then? You looked very intense.’
Lois nodded. Intense was a good word for it. Yes, she felt intensified, like a meat stock reduced to unctuous gravy. She smiled the first genuine, honest-to-goodness, deep-to-the-soul smile that she’d managed for months.
‘Well,’ Lois said, opening her handbag. She took out a bunch of keys and laid them on the glass coffee table next to the roses. ‘I’m leaving my husband.’
Helena looked at the keys with a frown. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘You should.’ Lois said. ‘You’ve been bonking him for the last six months.’