Based on a true story
The Schmuck's Wife
Facing the past isn't always what we might expect.
As I drove to breakfast one brisk morning, I thought of the last several months, and couldn't help feeling reflective. Mark and I had been busy making arrangements for our upcoming wedding. The kids were so happy and beginning to really excel in school again. And the only contact I'd had regarding The Schmuck wasn't from him, but actually from his wife.
She'd sent me a very compelling letter, saying she'd like to meet because she wanted closure. "What do you think?" I'd asked my counselor the previous week. She studied me and then nodded, telling me that I might need closure as well.
We'd agreed to meet at a charming breakfast place near both of our homes, but being super nervous I had arrived about twenty minutes. I shakily took out my phone and called to talk to my mom as I waited.
"What do you think you're doing?" my mom asked. "You could end up dead!"
"Mom! That's a bit dramatic. I'm here because we both need closure. She's almost divorced from The Schmuck--for real this time. And plus, she doesn't sound like the person The Schmuck described so long ago."
"Gina. You scare me. Just be careful, okay?"
"All right," I promised.
I hung up the phone and paced in the front of the restaurant. Then I stopped and looked around. Oh shit, what if she was already there? What if I looked stupid pacing and pacing. I instantly went into the breakfast joint and asked the first waitress I found, "Have you seen a cute blonde come in here, looking for someone?"
The waitress shook her head. "Nope. Take a seat though, and come on up when your whole party is here."
So I sat there, being eaten away by my thoughts. I wondered what she'd be like. The Schmuck had told me dozens of stories about her--thinking about those made me want to get up and leave. I was honestly considering it when my phone rang so randomly that I jumped.
"Hey, babe. You made it to the diner?"
"Yes," I said, stepping outside again.
"Your mom called me." He laughed. "She's worried too. Just be safe like we talked about. I think this is pretty brave what you're doing. I know you're hoping this will help her. I hope it'll help you too. You know that what happened wasn't either of your faults. You didn't know they were still together. She didn't know he was cheating. It's his problem. I just hope this will help you realize this isn't you. And not all men are like that. I'm trying to show you every day."
"You really have," I said. And as I contemplated his words, a gorgeous blonde drove up.
I knew The Schmuck's wife had arrived.
She had this certain air about her, like a classic beauty who is timeless, sweet and kind. Watching her walk toward me, I gasped. Her platinum hair bounced and she wore perfect designer clothes. This woman was a head-turner. Why had "The Schmuck" cheated when he'd had someone as beautiful as her!
After she walked up, I shook her hand, maybe a bit too hard--out of awkwardness. Then we went into the restaurant.
The waiter brought me my coffee and I was pretty freakin' thankful for a distraction. The Schmuck's wife and I sat across from each other, two sides of a coin that I'd never imagined flipping. "I didn't ever think I'd be the other woman," I finally said. "It wasn't my favorite."
She nodded and took a sip of her water. "I just wanted to come here and hear your side of the story. I know there's good in everyone. And I'm not one to hold grudges."
I took a big swig of coffee, honestly wishing it was Vodka. Then I tugged at my shirt's collar. Why in the hell had I worn such warm clothes--it was pretty hot in that place. Yet I looked super-modest.
"Well, we met when my ex-husband and I were still married," I began. "Things were going bad with my ex, real bad. I knew I needed out. And I couldn't talk to anyone. I was scared--terrified really. The timing of it was crazy because we'd hired The Schmuck to frame our basement, and a week after he started the job, my husband and I got separated."
"I've never heard this side of the story. Why did you two separate?" she asked.
"There were so many reasons that I shouldn't get into. But The Schmuck came into this because my ex thought I was having an affair with him. He wouldn't let up, said I'd been dating him for months even though I'd known him a week! So right after we separated, I called The Schmuck and asked him to go to the mountains with me. He told me he was getting divorced. That the two of you were friends, but had been separated for a long time. Long story short, I kissed him in the mountains--told him I was in a real bad place. Then the next day I went and filed for a divorce."
She nodded. "He said that you seduced him. That he couldn't say no. That you were always wearing short shorts and tank tops. But seeing you now--I know he was lying."
Yeah, cause I looked more modest than a nun! My eyes widened as I tried nodding sweetly. Thank God I'd worn pants and a long shirt. He had lied about the seducing part, but he had not lied about my redneck clothes.
"Listen," I said. "I'm gonna be honest about this. You are gorgeous! Even prettier up-close in person. I'm so glad you're getting away from The Schmuck. I know I've made mistakes. And I'm the queen of messing shit up, but I know one thing: I never would have kissed him or even started dating him if I would've known that you two were still together. And honestly I wish I wouldn't have kissed one until after I was legally divorced."
"I didn't understand then. But I get it now. Divorce is hard." She took another sip of her water and started looking at her menu. "Has he contacted you within the last several months?"
I had to be honest. "Yes, he was saying that since you're getting divorced he wanted to give it another shot with me."
She bit her lip. "He's been trying to get back together with me the whole time too. And come to find out, he's had a girlfriend this whole time."
I don't know why, but it hit me so hard. I laughed and laughed. Then as she stared at me, a smile slid onto her own face and she began laughing as well. It got funnier and funnier because it was either laugh or cry. And our waiter finally came over. "You guys know what want yet?"
"Can you give us a few more minutes?" The Schmuck's wife asked.
"No worries," he said. "My best friend came into town last week and we were the exact same way--too busy talking to look at the menu.
After the waiter left, turned back to The Schmuck's wife. "Another girl in the mix. He's something else."
"Yeah. Lately, the more that I learn about him, the happier I am that I'm getting away now," she said.
There was suddenly so much emotion in her voice. I met her eyes and I could've cried. I wanted her to know how bad I felt about the whole damn thing. That I'd never wanted to hurt her or her kids. That I'd never wanted to be the side show, everything short of the real thing. And also how bad I felt that I'd kissed him in the first place, because I was trying to find a crutch to help me out of my own shit.
And as we looked at each other something strange happened to me--I felt genuinely happy for a person I'd really disliked months before. In the previous year, I'd been jealous, seeing pictures of how beautiful she was. I'd felt like less of a person because she must've had something I didn't. But as I stared at her, I didn't give a damn if she was prettier, or nicer, or sweeter--or anything. I was happy for her. She'd survived a terrible situation, just like I had with my own divorce.
All of the jealousy and anger instantly fell away. And I sat with confidence because I suddenly had to tell her something.
"This wasn't either of our faults." I borrowed Mark's words. "I didn't know you were still together. You didn't know he was cheating. This is his problem."
She nodded, "Yeah. We're strong and we'll both be better off because of what we've gone through."
"Agreed," I said. And when we left that restaurant I felt like a terrible burden had fallen from my shoulders.
I called Mark. "Come to find out the whole time I thought I'd been struggling with getting over The Schmuck, really I'd been trying to forgive myself, for being part of something that had hurt a wife and family the way that it had."
"I'm so glad you met with her. What was she like anyway?"
"Actually pretty freakin' awesome--nothing like he'd described her to be."
"Figures," Mark said. "You feel better?"
"Hey, you wanna go someplace with me? All this closure got me thinking."
And when I got there, Mark asked for me to jump in his truck because he wanted to head into the mountains.
"You remember how we broke up and buried that time capsule, saying we'd catch up someday, dig it up and read it together?"
"Well, you meeting with The Schmuck's wife, made me think of everything we've been through. I want to go dig up the time capsule and read it together today."
"Wait! Let's dig it up today, but not open it until our honeymoon!"
So it only took two holes until Mark found the mason jar time-capsule. He wiped the dirt off of it and I couldn't help hugging him hard. I remembered the letter I'd written to him and I could hardly wait for him to read it on our honeymoon. I also wondered what he'd written on his letter to me.
"Life is funny," Mark said as we walked back down the mountain. "You never know what new things will happen."
"Yeah, like how The Schmuck's wife ended up being so sweet. Or how you and I thought we'd break up last year, and now we're getting married in a month!"
Mark put his slightly dirty arm around my shoulder and walked near me on the path. "Can I tell you a secret? I never thought we'd break up. I knew I'd keep trying to win your heart, even if it took forever."
"You're full of it."
"Honestly! You know I'm so in love with you and have been for a long time."
As we continued walking I thought of all of our memories together: my security job, the avalanche, the kayaking adventure, camping with the kids.... "Mark, when did you know that you loved me? Was it when I kissed you?"
"Even before that. I wanted to be with you so bad. I just didn't know it would be this good."
"I didn't either." I took the time capsule from him and grinned at it. "What a ride this has been."
"And this is just the beginning." He held me closer as I closed my eyes for a moment and breathed in the fresh mountain air.