“ALL OF THE THINGS”-4

I knew Donna was letting me know now was the time for comments or questions, but right then I was processing the story.

Donna filled the silence, “I’m really sorry. I want us to stay married. I love you. I know I fucked up. If you want a divorce, I’ll be heartbroken. I won’t fight it though. I know you’ll be reasonable and so will I. I’ll give you access to the children whenever you want. If you want or need to have an affair for the same length of time, you have my permission to do that. I’ll hate it. Or you can let me make it up to you every day, every month, every year.”

I said what I was thinking. “This seems very considered.”

“Ever since I lost that luggage, I worried about what this would mean. I’ve thought about this, and was prepared for you finding out. So, yes. I’ve been prepared years ago. I hoped you wouldn’t find out, but I knew what I’d say when you did.”

It was so Donna. She was always someone who rehearsed when on camera and came off as sincere. It’s why she was so good at her former job. She always practiced and prepared. I could always tell the difference between genuine sincerity and on-camera sincerity only because I knew her. If she’d practiced this speech in her mind, or probably out loud looking into the mirror as she often did, every word was considered. I focused on the part of the rehearsed speech that I thought could possibly save us.

“What does, ‘make it up every day’ mean exactly?”

“It means I’ll make it up to you for the rest of my life. Whatever you ask. I’ll do all of the things.”

That was quite a statement. That covered a lot of ground. “All of them?”

“Conditionally. I’ll do things to make you happy. I’ll do all of those things.”

“Conditionally?”

“You can’t go after my paramour.”

“Paramour? You mean Craig? Not that I was going to, but why shouldn’t I? Also, you saying ‘paramour’ isn’t really calming me down. It suggests feelings.”

“I said ‘paramour’ because I felt saying his name might be incendiary. ‘Lover’ or ‘boyfriend’ seemed a lot worse, and believe me he wasn’t either of those things. I don’t know how to refer to him without saying his name, so I thought ‘paramour’ was the least offensive thing I could say. Should I just refer to him by name?”

I could see she was trying to be sensitive to my feelings. The word ‘paramour’ was worse than saying ‘Craig.’ It gave him some kind of special relationship to her. “Let’s just refer to him as Craig. I can handle it. So why can’t I go after him?”

“Because I am the one that continued it. It was all me.”

“So you want to protect him?”

“No. I want to protect our marriage. I don’t want you to do something crazy that would keep him in our life. He’s gone. I don’t want him to be a mistake I made that affects us now. If you murder him and go to jail, then I lose you. Besides, you may not see it as punishment, but I assure you the damage to his sexual ego was huge, you just have to trust me on that.”

I really wasn’t the murdering type. It wasn’t that I don’t have dark thoughts, it’s more that I have a sense of self-preservation. That didn’t mean I didn’t want vengeance in a more subtle way. Giving that up would require quite a big trade off, even though I did believe Donna when she said she had crushed his image of himself as some kind of stud. I know how I would have felt in that situation, and I’ve never had any delusions about being a ladies man. It was time to focus on the good stuff.

“So those are the only conditions? Anything else I want for the rest of our life I can lay claim to?”

“Yes. Whatever you want. As often as you want it without argument.”

“Does that include anal sex?”

“Yes, goddamn it! Fuck my ass as often as you want and I’ll even pretend to enjoy it if you want me to.”

I needed time to think. Dad had always warned me about this possibility of my attractive wife finding another man. It turned out he was right. Therefore, he was the last person I wanted to talk to.

Instead, I decided to talk to my best friend Gonz. His name was Armando Gonzalez and his nickname was Mando, but I’d known him since we were kids and he was always Gonz to me. We always met up during the week, but I needed my best friend on that day. I called him and said, “Gonz, hey, can we do lunch today?”

“Nah, bad time. I’m working on a soundtrack for an independent film produced here in Phoenix.”

“Gonz, I really need this. Whatever favors you think you may owe me, I need this today. If you don’t feel you owe me any favors, then I will owe you for this. It’s that important.”

We met at one of our usual hangouts, a local restaurant known for having killer margaritas and awesome nachos. Gonz and I ordered both of these things, it’s what we ordered most of the time we met her, although sometimes we skipped the nachos. I took a health drink of my mango margarita before letting an impatient Gonz know what my problem was.

“Donna had an affair.”

Gonz almost choked on a tortilla chip, before washing it down with his raspberry margarita. “What?! Damn. Is she in love with him?”

“Had. Had. And no. It happened years ago. He doesn’t even live here any more.”

I told him the entire story. The whole time he was riveted. Gonz could be serious when he needed to be. He knew this was some major shit for me. After I concluded, I laid out the options she had presented me with. An affair of equal length or making it up to me for the rest of her life.

Gonz said, “For the rest of her life? So how would she do it?”

“She said anything I wanted.”

“What were her exact words?”

“She said, ‘All of the things.'”

Gonz cracked a smile before replying, “Does that mean anal sex is on the table?”

“It means anal sex is on the table, on the floor, in the bed or with her in the backyard on the swing set.”

Gonz held his hand up for the high five. I reacted to that reflexively as I had for so many years and high-fived him back.

“I still haven’t decided. I’m not sure I can live with it either way.”

Gonz ordered another round before saying,”This is easy, compadre.”

“How the fuck is this easy?”

“You’re thinking like a hurt person and not looking at it objectively.”

I was ruffled. “Dude, you lost your mind when Vanessa broke up with you.”

“Yeah. But that was my shit. You can’t be objective about your own shit. A friend can. You gave me great advice.”

“You ignored all of it!”

“I know. I realized after I was in jail for violating the restraining order that you were right. I should have listened. I didn’t then and you should listen to me now.”

“So what is your advice?”

“You two are crazy in love. She-“

I cut him off. “Obviously she doesn’t love me as much as I love her.”

“I thought you wanted my advice. That requires hearing it.”

“I will listen to your wisdom and cease from further interruptions.”

“She loves you, you love her. The only complaints you ever have are that she is too rigid. So now you get the woman you love that will loosen up any way you want to.”

I said, “Until she hates it.”

“Then enjoy the ride. Take her at her word. For the first time, you’re the one in control.”

“Until it doesn’t work out and she can’t keep her word.”

“Maybe it happens in a year. Maybe five years. Maybe ten. You’re at the same place you are now but you’ve had a hell of a ride.”

There’s a reason he’s my best friend. I did want my marriage to work. So I took Gonz’s advice. Once I did, it was hard to know where to start. There were so many possibilities that it was a bit overwhelming.

I went with a cliché usually initiated by the woman in a relationship. I told Donna that night after the kids were in bed, “We need to talk.”

We were in the living room again, this time sitting on the couch together. She wasn’t exactly on pins and needles, but she was nervous. I took her hand to reassure her.

“I’ve considered the options you presented me with. I don’t like any of them. I don’t feel like there’s a Band-Aid that will immediately fix this. I’m hurt.”

“I know.”

“I want us to stay together. I want us to grow old together. I want both of us to be there for our kids and grandchildren. I fell in love with you and that love has just grown stronger over the years. What happened though will take some time to get over. So I choose ‘All of the things.’ I’m not sure you really mean it, but that’s the one I choose. If you do that, I’ll eventually get over it. I won’t be abusive about it, but I will test you. If it doesn’t work for you, then we divorce. I will hold you to it. Even one time you refuse me, we’re done. I am believing you will be sincere and I need this to happen.”

Donna kissed me. It wasn’t a passionate kiss, it was the kiss of love. Anybody that’s been kissed that way knows the feeling. It’s the feeling of the woman you love, in your lap, as her body melds into you while kissing. She gives you that special kiss that makes you feel like you are the most important person in the world and only you get that kiss.

“I meant it. Until the end of time I will do what I said. I don’t say things without thinking about them, and I’ve thought about this for years. In some ways, I’m looking forward to it.”

We cuddled that night and didn’t have sex. It didn’t seem like either of us wanted it. We just wanted to take comfort in the other person’s body and feel everything would be okay.

The next morning I was ready to test her commitment. So many possibilities. I didn’t doubt she was sincere when she promised. I wanted to find out if the promise could stick over the long term.

Naturally I started with lingerie shopping. I had never bought any lingerie for Donna. She always knew what she wanted on her body and told me not to buy clothing for her. Now that changed. We shopped together and I picked three things that I liked. I let her pick the one she wanted from among the choices I presented to her. She didn’t pick my first choice, but I was fine with that.

The next step was the back yard. Did I mention I had a pirate fetish? I bought a flag pole and hung a Jolly Roger in the back yard. I went further than that and made the back yard pirate themed. This included a redesign of our pool. Now there were sharks, alligators and dolphins. Donna thought it was embarrassing, but the kids loved it. When Donna voiced her objections, I just smiled and said, “All of the things.” That always shut her up. She did take it graciously. I had only to say, “AOTT” and I won every big argument.

I also won the smaller things as well. I’d always loved karaoke and Donna hated it. While she may have had the face of an angel, she sure didn’t have the voice of one. I was no Freddy Mercury, or even Tom Jones, but I could sing the latter without embarrassing myself. I’d often sung “Sex Bomb” to Donna. The high notes I had to fudge, but she always thought my moving and shaking was hilarious. Yup, white men have no rhythm is a true stereotype in my case. Still, as long as you’re having fun, who cares who judges you.

Halloween I decorated the place. Our lawn became full of tombstones. I insisted Donna join me in a scary costume. One year we were zombies, another year vampires, another year scary clowns… you get the idea.

Then vacations. That one I really enjoyed. I got to take Donna and our kids to places Donna had always vetoed. We did things like white-water rafting. In a way that was safe, of course. The kids loved it. Donna got through it. She was worried about the danger to our children, but I knew what I was doing, inasmuch as you can when out in the elements.

I really didn’t think she could stick to it. She was a trooper though. At any thought I had that she disagreed with, she’d argue her point. If we hit an impasse, I’d just end it with, “AOTT.” It was a lifetime trump card as we had mutually agreed on. It took a while for me to accept that every new request would not be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

We had anal sex, and while it wasn’t as horrible as she feared, it was clear it did nothing for her. I only asked her for it about once a year. I called it our “Analversary.” She was game and gave it her best. She really did. She once put a “Post It” note on her ass when I got home that said, “Happy Analversary.” That meant more to me than the sex. Okay, it was a tie. They both meant a lot to me.

I also went and bought Blu-rays of every series Carmen LaGaretta was in. Even with Donna’s agreement, I thought watching this on a streaming service where Donna could see our viewing history, would be rubbing her nose in it. Besides, Blu-rays had interview and deleted scenes. I watched those when Donna was out, and kept those hidden in a desk. I had missed out on some good series, as well as some admitted crap.

Our children were an issue I wanted to have more influence on than I had previously. I had deferred to Donna on the kids mostly, but I wanted to revisit it. After all, “All of the things.” Allison wanted to go to cheer leading camp.

Donna absolutely hated the idea. “That promotes treating women as sex objects.”

As far as I was concerned, this was my father discouraging me from following my dream. “She’s young. For her it’s about entertainment and maybe that’s something we should encourage. She’s too young for it to be sexual, let’s let her decide for herself whether she wants to continue or not.”

I knew Donna didn’t like it, but I played the AOTT card. I had to play it again with our son.

Nick wanted to play soccer. The boy wasn’t the most athletic, but he wasn’t a slouch either. He did like watching soccer games. I’m not sure how much of it was natural interest or growing up hearing stories about his mother covering local sports. Whatever it was, he really wanted to do it.

Donna was even less enthusiastic about this idea than cheer leading camp. “Do you understand about concussions?”

“It’s children playing soccer. A child is much more likely to get a concussion falling out of a tree he climbed.”

I wasn’t exactly certain that was statistically accurate, but intuitively I felt it was okay saying it.

As far as I was concerned, taking Gonz’s advice was one of the best decisions I’d ever made. I had everything I’d ever wanted. I had my wonderful wife. I had my wonderful kids. I’d really forgiven Donna and I was on Cloud 9. What I didn’t realize was that Donna was finding “all of the things” harder to stick to as the years went on. I should have, but I’d gotten used to the new reality.

Friday nights were always date nights. We’d picked that night because sometimes I had to work on weekends. Weekends were the only time some clients had off. Dad hated the word “clients.” He called them customers. I realized early on the customers hated that word. I guess it was a generational thing.

Date nights we always had a babysitter. Date night was not a weekly occurrence, but it was something we did when we just wanted time together. The kids were left with Shelly, the 17-year-old neighborhood babysitter. We usually got back before 10:00. Date nights as a couple did come with some parameters, after all. You can only trust your children in a teenager’s hands for so long. Donna and I rarely stayed out past 10:00. If we did, it was because there was traffic, a delay in paying the bill, or that we wanted an extra 30 minutes before going home. The first inkling I had that something was amiss with our agreement was during one of those date nights.

We were in a karaoke bar, and I’d just nailed the Elvis song, “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” I looked at Donna the whole time as I sang it. After I got offstage I got a kiss on the lips. I was surprised, and a bit uncomfortable, so I didn’t kiss back. She separated and said, “Thanks for singing that song. It was sooo sexy. You made me moist.”

To be fair, that kiss and comment made me hard. I went back to our table, knowing Donna had seen that and was ready to reassure her that it was unexpected and meant nothing. I didn’t get the first words out because Donna said, as I sat down, “That woman is attractive.”

Her tone was surprising. There was just something off. It was like she was happy for me having that moment. Oh sure, that would have been in character for her to enjoy a moment like that with me, but “That woman is attractive,” was not typical Donna.

I just said, “Sure she is. Not anywhere near as attractive as you though.” I kissed her and sat down. I wasn’t sure where this was going, and I hoped it was going nowhere.

“She kissed you.”

“I know. I was there.”

“Did you see her tits? I don’t think those are fake.”

“They look nice.”

“They’re not nice, they’re exquisite. Perfection.”

That was an awkward comment to respond to. Yeah, she had great tits but I was supposed to say my wife’s were the best in the world. I hedged, “They do look better than average.”

“If I was a man, I’d be all over those. Hell, as a woman, I might be tempted to switch teams for a night or two.”

Donna was effusive. She didn’t seem jealous of another woman’s looks, she seemed to be in admiration. Donna had commented on a woman’s looks and body before, but never had tried to sexualize it. I didn’t disagree that the woman had an impressive rack from her outward appearance. The word ‘perfection’ seemed strange because there was no way to know what really was under her blouse.

It was such a bizarre experience. I talked it over with Gonz.

Gonz cut to the chase. “Was she sexually attractive?”

“Definitely.”

“It seems like she was was encouraging it. Is this a kink of hers?”

“No. It never has been. Until maybe now?”

Gonz patted a waitress on the ass as she passed by before responding. It took a bit longer because she turned around and mouthed, “Call me,” and he mouthed something back I couldn’t see. Then he said, “Dude, Donna is chafing at what she agreed to. Trust me, women don’t like chafing. It’s uncomfortable.”

I knew what Gonz was saying, but it was blowing my mind. So I asked, “She wants to get out of it so much she actually wants me to fuck another woman? Is that what you’re saying?”

“That’s what I’m saying.”

I wasn’t sure I believed Gonz. Donna wanting me to fuck another woman? I was happy with how things were going. I found it hard to believe she’d prefer I fuck another woman rather than maintaining the status quo. It’s not like I was unreasonable in the things I insisted on. If she felt it was, she’d done a great job of hiding it. Of course part of the agreement was she’d do what I asked without complaint. So there was really no way to be sure. I just paid attention to see if this situation would ever repeat. It did. I started paying more attention. It happened again during date night. This time, Donna suggested we try a “new place.” It was a new breastaurant called “Grand Tetons.” It turned out the name had nothing to do with the cuisine or atmosphere. I realized it as I was looking through the menu and taking stock of the waitresses. There were no waiters.

Leila, our blonde and well-endowed waitress, came to our table and the first words she said were, “Donna, is this that magnificent husband you’ve been telling me about?”

“Yes it is. He’s quite the catch.”

“I can see that.” She turned to me, “Donna certainly didn’t lie. It’s nice to finally meet you. So what will you be having?”

She didn’t say that last part with any sort of a suggestive nature, yet it felt suggestive. I ordered two beers from a local brewery. I always support local businesses when I can. “That will do for the moment, still deciding what to eat.”

Leila said, “Of course. Deciding what to eat is important. We can’t just put anything in our mouths.” She said it without any sort of sexy tone in her voice. She did lean over so I got a great view of her ample cleavage. This was definitely twice. Two times is not a coincidence, it’s a pattern.

I’d been to other breastaurants before. I’d never gotten that level of innuendo. This was strip club level flirting. Donna didn’t seem fazed at all. So when Leila left, and shook her ass in tight shorts, I said, “So… how do you know Leila?”

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