An Excerpt from “Kevin” by Gwen Masters
When Kevin said he would take care of me, he meant it in more ways than I could fathom at the time. I began to meet him every time I had the chance. We were discreet, of course, because I was still married. Technically.
How could I have known what would happen?
I filed for divorce the day after I ordered Bill out of our house. When the papers were served, he was on the phone immediately, yelling about counseling. I assured him that I would still go to counseling, but I wanted to protect myself in the meantime. He told me I was a bitch. I hung up the phone in the midst of his ranting.
I had a week of feeling secure in my decision.
Life without my husband was a thrill of freedom—something decadent and forbidden in the middle of a crowd. I could feel the eyes on me when I went grocery shopping, to the bank, to the mechanic to pick up the Jaguar. My friends questioned my sanity. Even my attorney asked me, repeatedly, if I was doing the right thing. My mother-in-law called in tears, telling me that the duty of a wife was to stick by her husband.
“Darling,” she said when I answered the phone.
“Evelyn, how are you?”
“Terrible,” she sighed. “Just terrible. You left Bill!”
“With all due respect, Evelyn, he left me the first time he slept with someone else.”
“But,” she almost whispered, her voice wavering. “Men are just like that, dear.”
I sank down into the chair beside the telephone stand. My hands began to shake. Men were just like that?
“Please explain what you mean,” I implored.
“Well…you know. Men are just like that. Men have to sow their oats, dear. Marriage is a good thing, but it’s not the only thing. Monogamy is beyond them.”
I felt a headache coming on. I pressed my fingertips hard into my temples. Evelyn went on.
“You simply have to overlook things like this,” she lectured. “You simply turn the other way and be thankful that he takes care of you. And besides, a mistress is a good thing. It keeps him fresh and young, and happier with you.”
“So,” I said slowly, thinking. “An affair is okay, because a wife is never enough for a man?”
“Something like that,” she said uncertainly.
“And I should look the other way.”
“It would be best,” she sighed.
The anger rose up in my chest like a living thing, filling me with something just short of fury. I looked at my image in the hallway mirror. My nails had left little red half-moons in the skin of my forehead. My head throbbed. My eyes watered. How many times had I looked the other way? I felt the rush that comes right before the liberating scream.
“No, it is not okay!” I yelled into the phone. “It is not okay that a man can fuck around with other women and it be expected and ignored! I’m not that kind of woman!”
“You don’t have to yell—” Evelyn began, and I ignored her. I wasn’t done.
“I was more than enough!” I thundered. “I took care of him. I let my own career slide so that the bastard could have his personal Martha Stewart. I became better at giving dinner parties than I was at breathing! I put on a happy face for his friends and his boss and all those who didn’t matter in the least and guess what happened at the end of the day when everyone was gone and it was just us? He ignored me, Evelyn.”
“No, sweetie,” she protested. “He was just tired—”
“Yeah, he was tired. He was too tired to notice his wife, much less fuck her.”
Evelyn’s gasp was one of shocked embarrassment. “Don’t say such things!”
“Why? Because he pumped it in long enough to get me pregnant, then decided that he didn’t want the baby or the wife?”
Evelyn was finally speechless.
“You didn’t know that, did you? That Bill didn’t want that baby, and so he looked for every way he could to get out of it?”
I heard her sniffle on the other end of the line. I went on.
“Did you know,” I admitted for the first time, “that my husband asked me to have an abortion?”
The answering silence was absolutely complete.
“He did, Evelyn,” I said. “He demanded it, then he tried logic, then he tried whining, and finally he tried anger. He said he couldn’t afford another child.”
“But—but—” she sputtered. “He was so confused!”
It was the first sign that perhaps Evelyn had understood things all along.
“You knew,” I said softly, accusing.
Evelyn sighed. I envisioned her sitting down next to the wide bay window, looking out over the lake. I knew she was taking off her glasses and setting them on the windowsill. She was touching her eyes with just her fingertips and bowing her head, as if in prayer. Perhaps she was looking at the portrait above the fireplace, that of her husband, Bill’s father, the stern and imposing man who had died in an accident at sea long before I met my husband. I thought of what the last twenty years of widowhood must have been like, and I wondered if I would be so strong in solitude.
She sighed once more. “Yes. I knew he didn’t want the baby.”
“Did you know about the affair, too?”
“No,” she said sharply. “No, I swear to you, I did not.”
In her voice there was nothing but truth, and so I believed her. Then she shocked me, perhaps shocked us both, and gave me forewarning of what was to come.
“Be careful,” she whispered.
I began to tremble. The calm fear settled over me like a blanket of cool water. I stood up so fast, I upset the chair. The screeching on the hardwood floor was like an exclamation point to the conversation. I looked out the window at my son, who was playing in the yard. He was happy and safe.
He was safe.
“His father was a dangerous man,” she mused. “And Bill is his father’s son.”
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