“ALL OF THE THINGS”-3

She went into therapy. Most people would think it was an extreme reaction to just losing her luggage, and the possibility of her undergarments being sold on eBay, but I knew Donna. This was a very Donna thing to do. Yes, it was an over-reaction, but that was my Donna. What others find odd, those of us in love find those same things endearing.

I guess therapy worked… eventually. It did take time, but the anxiety was gone. She got back to her normal self. If anything, she was better in some ways. She was also more Donna in others. She had let the incident go. She had also filed that in her memory as a situation where she could never feel exposed in that way again.

Yeah, she definitely had her quirks. I could accept those. Those were minor in the grand scheme of things. There are worse things for a husband to have to deal with. It wasn’t like she was bipolar or a serial killer, so I rolled with those quirks. A year and some change later she quit her job. It was time to make the babies.

Donna took to the prospect of motherhood like a dog chasing a car that finally caught it. She was so excited when she was pregnant. Forget what you’ve heard about a spouse being nervous about telling her husband. It didn’t apply to us. I got home from work and Donna jumped into my arms. “I’m pregnant!”

I was equally over the moon. We had two children. Both of them resembled their mother more than me, Allison and Nicholas, in that order. As I mentioned earlier, Donna picked the first names. I got to pick the middle names. Allison was the name of someone in her family. Nicholas was a name she just liked. I picked the name,”Angela” for our daughter’s middle name. It always meant, “angel” to me. In my eyes, she was. For our son I picked, “Michelangelo.” I did want to carry on my father’s family tradition of a name for sons with something they could aspire to. For all I knew, he’d likely more identify with a Teenage Ninja Turtle than the artist, but that character isn’t a bad one to aspire to either.

They were usually called, “Nick” or, “Alice,” unless they were in trouble. In that case, first full name, both middle names, and the last name were used. As far as I we were concerned, this was how it was done. It’s amazing the things you pick up from your families, even if you see yourselves as parenting differently. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Some things stick for good reasons, even if you don’t realize what they are when younger, or even as adults. Parenting is a joy, but also hard at times. If something works, go with it.

Thank God they won the genetic lottery as far as looks were concerned. They were also intelligent, but I couldn’t claim that as my own. That could have come from either of us. I always hoped they’d gotten it from both of us and been hit with a double dose. It was everything I wanted for our family. I couldn’t have been happier about the life I’d led from the moment I’d met Donna.

Alice was eight and Nick was six when I got the call early in the morning from an airline that Donna’s missing luggage from her trip many year’s ago had been found. Donna had changed her cell phone number when she retired, mine was still the same. So I was the one who got the call from the airline that Donna’s about the discovery. Donna was out when the call came in, and that is when I made the decision to surprise Donna by picking it up without telling her.

I had intended to have us open the suitcases together, so we could have a playful moment about wondering what she still could wear or would wear a decade after she had last worn these items, being as fashion conscious as she was. Then, a bit of an impish nature got a hold of me. I wanted to see everything first so I could anticipate her reactions.

I thought about opening the suitcases at the airport, but figured the airport parking lot would keep her items away from prying eyes. I opened the first suitcase wondering what sort of state the clothing would be in. There was a bit of a musty smell, but other than that, the contents seemed to have stood the test of time pretty well. If Donna wanted to donate anything, a thrift store would certainly take it. It had quite a few outfits that I had honestly forgotten about, as well as stuff like makeup and conditioners and personal hygiene items. I repacked carefully so I could pretend to be sharing the moment with Donna.

I opened the second suitcase expecting to see more of the same, and for a moment, I wondered if there had been another mix up at the baggage department and I was opening someone else’s suitcase. Then I began recognizing one item after another. It had some of her raciest bras and panties that she had told me she’d thrown away. It also had some of her most sexual lingerie that she told me she’d thrown away. Shit. It also had bondage gear that…. You get it. I was not sure what to think because my first thought was, “I’m really glad I didn’t open this up in the airport.”

Something had clearly happened on that trip. There was no reason for Donna to have packed those things unless she wanted to dress to impress and be fucked under duress. Her anxiety about losing her luggage took on a whole different light, as well as the things she was worried about being set up for auction on eBay. I sat in the parking lot for about 30 minutes to compose my thoughts, then repacked the suitcase with a lot less care this time, then drove home. It would be hours before the kids got home.

When I got in, Donna had returned and called out from the living room, “Hey sweetheart, I was just about to call you. Where did you go?”

I walked into the living room where Donna was working on the family computer and dropped the two suitcase I was carrying, none too gently to the floor. “The airport. Guess who’s luggage the Bermuda Triangle coughed up?”

Donna turned to look at me, then down at the suitcases, then back at my face. Donna knows me better than anyone, and I could tell she knew that I knew something about that fateful trip. She didn’t faint, didn’t break down, but I think she swallowed before she said, “Honey, please sit down and I’ll answer any questions you might have, but, “You have to let me tell you this from the beginning without you interrupting.”

To a stranger she might have looked calm, after all she had years to prepare what to say if this moment ever came up, and Donna would have prepared for this possibility. Still, I knew her almost as well as she knew me, and I could see subtle signs of nervousness. I did want to hear the story, so I sat down on a chair across from her and said, “Okay.”

She launched straight into it. “I never intended to cheat on you. I am absolutely ashamed that I did. I want you to know those things first. It’s the single worst thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

She looked at me. I could see both love and pain in her eyes. It was exactly how I felt. Love and pain. I’d been 99 percent sure that the risque items I’d found were there because she was planning on showing them and using them with someone other than me. Still, that element of hope in remaining 1 percent for some other explanation had just been snuffed out. I sat there silently and waited.

“Aren’t you going to say anything?”

“I thought I wasn’t supposed to interrupt.”

“You’re right. I just got emotional and wanted a response to reassure myself you still loved me.”

I managed to say without any animosity, “I still love you,” because it was true. If it would still be true after she told me the story, that remained up in the air.

“Thank you, I love you too. I never have not. Not ever. But please, no more interruptions. I need to finish this.”

I was about to say I hadn’t interrupted, but then she wiped her eyes and was silent for a moment. She broke eye contact with me for a few seconds. She was clearly in struggling to keep herself composed. I’d never seen Donna showing raw emotion like this. I’d had a hint exactly one time in our entire relationship. That, of course, was the night her luggage didn’t arrive. I waited.

“Do you remember Craig Anderson?”

That name was a blast from the past. She’d talked about him years ago but he’d soon left KUCK for greener pastures. He’d gotten a job in New York City. She’d never mentioned him since. “Yes. I think so. Is he the guy you always joked about because he missed flights because he was always having sex with someone he met on location? That guy?”

“That guy. He’s the one I had an affair with. It was short, it happened only four times on four different trips.”

“The guy that you always told me always made decisions with his dick? The guy you said was close to being fired? The one you always told me was completely unprofessional? That guy?”

Donna nodded. “I need you to let me get this out.”

I had promised, but it was hard. So hard. I’d never been suspicious of her relationship with any of her colleagues, but if I had been suspicious of anyone, he would have been at the bottom of my list because she’d always voiced so much contempt for him. Now I felt… I wasn’t sure how I felt. Suckered? Stupid? Something else beginning with the letter ‘S’? I ground my teeth and just nodded my head for her to continue.

Painfully for me, she did. “What was so aggravating about him, was that he thought he was God’s gift to women.”

“So you proved him wrong by fucking him? I guess you showed him.”

“Sarcasm isn’t helping. You said you wouldn’t interrupt.”

“Well I’m sorry I’m having reactions. This is hard to listen to and not say anything. I’ll try, but don’t expect me to be stoic while being silent. I’m actually proud of myself for not raising my voice, so you could be more appreciative of my fucking Gandhi-like level of restraint.”

She sighed, “I get how hard this is to listen to, but I just need to get this out.”

“So you’ve said. Just do it.” I said that with a tinge of bitterness, it wasn’t intentional, but I couldn’t help it creeping in. We both were silent for a bit. She was watching my reactions. I was waiting for her to continue. She picked up on that, and then she did.

“It was the trip we took to San Diego when the Cardinals were playing the Chargers. After the game and the interviews, we were all just unwinding together at the beach before the flight home the next morning. It was no different than any other time we had time to hang out after work. We all went to the beach as a group, had a few drinks and listed to a local playing on the beach. I let my guard down and got high with a few colleagues, including Craig. He was flirting the same way he always did, but this time I didn’t shut it down, I was feeling good and enjoying the moment and it didn’t bother me. Somehow he sensed that I might be more receptive to things when stoned, that he would never dream of trying with me if I was not. He wanted to walk on the beach and my hand was soon in his. I don’t even remember how it got there.”

I interrupted again. “Did you have feelings for him?”

“No. There were never any feelings on my part or his. It was a fling.”

I interrupted. So much for my promise not to interrupt.

For the first time I raised my voice, “So you threw all of us away for a fling?! A meaningless fling was more important than our marriage?!”

Donna finally raised her voice in response to me raising mine. “Okay, I loved him! There was a lot of intense emotion involved. I wanted to run off and marry him! Does that make it better?!”

She was now outshouting me. Not only was she loud, but she was also dripping with sarcasm. I was pissed off not only by the situation, but also because sarcasm was supposed to be the sole province of the aggrieved husband in situations like this. She was only responding to the sarcasm I displayed earlier, so I took it down a notch and said quietly, “No. It doesn’t make it better.” Well, at least she’d lost control for a moment.

Once again there were seconds of silence. I think we both wanted the tension to dissipate somewhat so we could both get through the end of this fucking story. Finally she continued, “There is no version of this story that does. There isn’t a version where he was dying of cancer and the only cure was my magic healing pussy. It was selfish. It’s painful, no matter what the motivations were.”

I wanted to reach out to her and hold her, but given my conflicting emotions, I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t have ended up strangling her. As calmly as I could, I said, “I’m sorry. This is hard for me, and I know it’s hard for you too. Tell me the rest and I’ll try to keep the volume lowered.”

She looked up and I saw tears beginning to form again. I did hug her then, and she returned my embrace as though she was holding onto me for dear life. I just held her for a few minutes like that, until she was ready to continue, while dreading her continuing. I did have to hear the rest of it, but I also needed that brief respite as much as she did. She broke her bear hug, wiped her eyes again, then picked up where she’d left off.

“It was just the two of us on the beach, and the sun had gone down. We were separated from the rest of the group, and the time had gotten away from us. Craig had lit another joint at some point, and we shared it. We were sitting, he had his arm around my shoulder, just chatting and watching the waves, when I said I was really enjoying the moment but I was ready to go back to the hotel.”

She paused a moment,”I don’t know if he misinterpreted my wanting to go back to the hotel as a suggestion, or if he just decided to be bold and make a move, but he pulled me in and kissed me. I hadn’t meant going to the hotel as anything other than going to my room alone, but when he kissed me, I kissed him back. It was like a switch had been turned on, you’ve certainly seen that happen sometimes when I’m in that state. We made out, and then when our hands started roaming all over each other, he said, ‘You’re right, going back to the hotel is a good idea, if we continue out here we might get arrested.'”

I managed not to say anything and continued listening.

“We hurried back there,stopping a couple times along the way to swap tongues. When we got to the hotel, we went to his room. I won’t share the gory details, but we fucked. After we finished, got dressed then went back to my room, I didn’t feel any guilt then, but didn’t want to wake up in someone else’s room.”

I almost smile at that, that was very much like Donna.

She kept going, “The next morning, I woke up and got out of bed and all I was thinking about was packing and checking out of the hotel when I remembered the previous night. The guilt hit me then. I couldn’t believe I had had sex with someone else, especially not a co-worker and most especially not Craig. That cocky bastard had gotten through my defenses and had added me as a notch on his belt. His ego was probably sky high. In a way, that was bothering me as much as the fact I had been unfaithful.”

With as much sympathy as I could put into my voice I said, “I think I can understand under those conditions why it happened. I guess it continued because he threatened to tell me about it?” It was becoming more understandable, one slip followed by coercion. Donna had been protecting herself, but also was desperate to spare my feelings and avoid damage to our marriage.

She broke eye contact with me and softly said, “No. He didn’t do that. I was the one that continued it.”

Did I say it was becoming clear? Now it was as clear as mud, I was about to speak but Donna hurriedly said, “Before you say anything, it wasn’t because it was some kind of amazing sex that I wanted to repeat, it wasn’t. It wasn’t even close to the best sex I’ve had, and before you ask, that’s been with you. It was the fact I couldn’t bear the thought of him feeling that he had seduced me. I couldn’t work with him daily, with that idea. I wanted him to think the idea had been equally mine, I didn’t want him thinking I had lost control.”

If I’d been drinking anything I would have spit it out. Fucking Donna logic. This bizarre reasoning did fit what I knew about Donna, and I morbidly waited to see how this had played out.

She went on, “So after we returned, he played it cool. I spoke to him alone one day and told him I couldn’t wait for the next trip when we had more time, to see if he was up for more than a quickie. I said it was my fault party, because I should have suggested we return to the hotel earlier than I did when I lured him onto the beach. I planted the idea in his head that I was the one that had manipulated the evening, and also that the sex had been hurried. I can tell you I could see it on his face that his perception had just been changed to something a bit less satisfying.

I wanted to get any smug thoughts he’d had out of his head, and I had a plan. The next two trips that allowed for it, we did have sex again. We were very discreet, no one else knew then or knows now. The sex was less enjoyable for me those two times, still pleasant, but I needed to get high again just to put myself in the mood. It was part of carrying out the plan. Each of those times I subtly hinted that I thought with his reputation he’d be better. I could tell this was getting to him.

It was the fourth trip, where I lost the luggage was the last time and was supposed to be the last time. We were going to be away for four days, which gave us three nights he could look forward to. I was ready to decimate his ego sexually and end things at the same time. I told him I had some surprises for him, and hinted I was looking for three nights of earth-shattering sex. I could tell he was thinking he needed to up his game in the bedroom, and it was putting pressure on him.”

This not interrupting thing was a pain in the ass, but thankfully this train wreck of a story seemed to be coming to and end. I was a bit numb by this point, so I no longer had to bite my tongue. I just had to endure the rest of it. Fortunately I was right, we were almost to the end.

She said, “We’d always had sex in his room before, and I never spent the night. The first night in Austin, I let him know when we were done shooting, I wanted him in my room that night. I gave him my spare key and told him what time to let himself in, and I’d be waiting for him with a surprise. He showed up to find me naked and restrained in bed.”

Donna had had her share of toys, and she had done that for me a number of times. I knew the image well. Donna was like the opposite of an escape artist, in her ability to restrain herself before I’d arrived. She always let me know on those occasions I had better be home on time.

She said, “You know I like to be teased until I’m begging for an orgasm during those times. Dumbshit had no clue.” She said that last part with a certain relish. “He got the idea in his head that I was wanting to be helpless and taken, that he should use me any way he saw fit, that I was interested in his pleasure. It was some of the worst sex I ever had, and having smoked a joint before barely got me wet enough so that it didn’t hurt. I didn’t even have an orgasm that time. He could tell, and kept trying different things to get me off, although oral sex never occurred to him. After an hour, I told him it wasn’t working and suggested it was my fault, although I knew he was thinking anything but that. After he released me from the restraints, I said we should call it a night. I could tell he left the room with his ego devastated.”

I kept listening, at this point I was starting to feel a little bad for the guy. A little. Now that I knew she was winding up, I could even see a little humor in the situation. A little.

Donna kept going, “And that was the end of it. The next two nights I spent with different people on the crew as a small group. Craig was included, but he’d got the idea that I’d rather be spending time in other ways than having sex with him. I knew it was over, I torn his sexual self-esteem to shreds and sent him the message that disappointment in the sack meant it was over. I was friendly to him and he to me on the surface. Things had changed though, he never flirted with me again. The closest he ever came was one day at work, months after that trip, he said, ‘I’d like another shot sometime.’ I smiled and and just told him it was fun, but we weren’t compatible. I didn’t say sexually, but I knew that’s what he was thinking. And that’s it. That’s the story.”

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