A Fragile Wife(52)

By: Cynthia Dane


More words. More praise. Tiny criticisms, like how she often spat her toothpaste into the sink and didn’t wash it down all the way. Or how she mumbled in her sleep, usually about the most nonsensical things. “She can be harsh to our staff sometimes, but she’s also very generous come Christmas and birthdays, or because something made her think of someone working in our house or office. Lana simply expects excellence from everyone around her. If any of our staff thinks she’s tough on them, imagine how she is on me! If I screw something up, I hear about it for months, sometimes years. She wants me to improve myself. In turn, I challenge her as well.”

Sometimes things were crossed out. Other times there were tiny notes in the margins, usually in Chloe’s curly handwriting. “You’re so sweet, Mr. Andrews.” “I’m not sure Mrs. Andrews would like the word ‘beastly’ in reference to her flirting…” “Do you have a picture to go with this passage? I think the audience would like a visual reference. I know I do!”

“Lana!”

Papers crumpled in her hands as Lana turned, heart thumping wildly in her chest. “Ken!”

There he stood, in his office doorway, suit jacket tossed over his arm and tie loose around his neck. The look he gave his wife was both one of shock and horror. “What are you doing in my private drawer?”

Lana dropped what she held, but the damage was already done. She and her husband kept few secrets between them, but one thing they acknowledged was private correspondence and spaces. They didn’t go through each other’s mail, electronic or physical. They didn’t intrude on meetings unless previously given permission. And they sure as hell stayed out of each other’s locked drawers. Lana had violated more than her husband’s trust by rooting through his locked desk drawer.

“I had to know what was going on!” Already she was on the defensive, determined to clear her besmirched name before her husband even had the chance to besmirch it. “Things had been so shady around here… you and Chloe…”

“What about me and Chloe?”

She saw the look on her husband’s face. He knew instantly what she had suspected, and it was more than betrayal coloring his cheekbones. Lana bent over the yellow stationery scattered on the floor… and cried.

They were tears of relief and fear. Relief that her paranoia was just that, and her husband was not cheating on her. But the fear. The fear! I fucked up badly! Now Ken knew how crazy she was. Not only had she suspected something as heinous as infidelity, but she had rooted through his private stashes in search of something against him. Had the tables been turned? Lana would have never forgiven him.

Ken stayed far away from her for a minute. Lana could not see his face through her shameful tears, but she could feel his aura from so far away. “How could you, Lana?” He wasn’t angry. He was sad. The woman he had written so highly of in these papers was sobbing on his office floor after being caught like Chloe was.

“Lana.” That stern voice was not sexual. Rarely did Lana hear this side of him and not be the submissive end to his domination. No, this was matrimonial, sure, but for all the wrong reasons. “I am not sleeping with our maid.”

“I know!” she cried through her sobs, each one more heinous than the last. They wracked her body… a body purging itself of the negativity, the paranoia, and her will to destroy a marriage that seemed too good to be true for so long. And yet here she was, destroying the best thing that had ever happened to her. “I’m sorry.”

Sorry would never be enough for her unwarranted suspicions. Of course Ken had not cheated on her. Why would he? Was she really so dumb, so foolhardy as to believe this man who let her get away with murder would be any less than faithful to a fault? For fuck’s sake, they were swingers! If he was happy, why would he cheat? Because he was a man? Because men always cheated? What sort of disgusting half-truths had Lana swallowed over the years? Did she really have so little faith in her marriage?

I didn’t confront him about the maid because deep down I knew it was baseless. Like her therapist told her, she had only been concerned with dismantling her own marriage, finding every little fault as an excuse to get a divorce. Except to what end? Did she really need Ken to prove his love to her every ten years? Would she still be playing this game with herself at eighty?

“I can’t believe you went through my things.” Now he came to her, swiftly, his polished leather shoes appearing beside her huddling, shaking body.

“I had to know…” It was all she could say. “I had to know what you were up to. Everyone was being so secretive, I couldn’t take it anymore!”