“When will you leave well enough alone?” I could hear the ghost of my long passed mother as I stood smothered by a thick wool full length coat and a fleece running jacket. The air was stale with traces of rotten gym socks as I delicately balanced in the pile of shoes. Hangers kept me pinned to the back wall. I desperately wanted to burst out into the room and breathe cool clean air. But my shame kept me hidden in my former bedroom closet as I strained to hear the conversation from the living room.
“All I wanted was my iPhone speakers,” I answered my mother in my head. I still had my key to the apartment so I stopped by after work. Peter never got home earlier than seven on a weekday night so I didn’t feel obligated to text him that I might stop by. After searching the living room and our bedroom, I dove into our closet, thinking that maybe my ex-husband had boxed up the remnants I’d left behind in the aftermath of our stormy breakup.
That’s when I heard the key in the front door bolt. I pulled myself out of the crammed contents of the closet, and prepared myself for the confrontation.
“I don’t care. Whatever you want to eat,” a familiar female voice answered a question started in the hallway. My entire body tensed as I realized who had accompanied Peter into our apartment. It was Susan, my best friend since the fourth grade and the maid of honor at our wedding. What was she doing with my ex-husband?
I know I should have walked out of the bedroom and confessed. But my morbid curiosity tossed me back into the closet. Closing the door behind me I waited in the darkness, listening.
“Come on, Sue. I always pick the restaurant,” my former husband said. In my mind, I could see his sneering smile that he thought was amusing.
“But you spoil me,” my friend replied. “We’ve gone out to white tablecloth restaurants every night for the past month. Don’t you ever cook?”
Heat started rising in my face. When we were married, my husband kept us to a strict budget, which didn’t include eating out. We barely even got fast food once a month. Where was he getting all this money from? Maybe there was an oil well in this closet.
“I hate to cook,” said Peter. “When Jenny and I were married, she insisted on cooking every night. Now it’s just easier to go out.”
I distinctly heard a low giggle. Really? He’s making her giggle. Not once in our marriage, except for when Peter ran into the bedroom door in the middle of the night, did he ever make me giggle. I tried to take slow calming breaths without making noise or inhaling fluff from my dusty hideout.
“Honey, you know I want to,” her husky voice managed to say.
“Then what, darling? I’ve waited patiently all these years.”
All these years? My husband and my best friend cheating on me for years? I quietly removed an empty wire hanger and started shaping it into a noose. Were there still skiing gloves buried in the bottom of the closet?
“I’m just an old fashioned girl,” Sue said. “I want to see the wedding ring on this finger first.”
“”This little finger?” my ex-husband purred. More giggling ensued from both of them.
Then a sigh that reminded me of a waiting locomotive. “Alright then. Let’s get some dinner.”
The front door opened and closed, the key clicking in the bolt. Alone once more, I emerged from my prison, sweating like a factory worker. Throwing down the hanger I still clutched in my hands, I fell into the soft tangles of blankets on the bed I had shared with my husband for ten years. I wanted to scream. I wanted to text both of them, scathing, searing curses that would burn into their hearts like acid. Instead I threw one of our heavy goose down pillows at the nightstand, where it struck a picture of Peter with his Harley group. The ceramic frame fell to the wood floor and dashed into pieces.
Encouraged by that action, I got up to find the baseball bat Peter always kept in the closet.
“Should have left well enough alone,” my mother said in my head as I started to swing the bat.