She is perfection.

There is a rather candid photo of her putting groceries in the back of her red Volvo station wagon. Her hair is all over the place. Her slender legs are encased in yoga pants, feet in Uggs. Her daughter looks like she is giving her problems as she tries to watch her and still put groceries in the back.

Even this… domesticity calls to me.

There is a glamour shot of some type mixed in and I can see just how haunting those eyes are. They are calling to me, pulling me in to get forever lost. I can feel my hands curling into themselves. She is pulling me from where I sit in the SUV.

“Take me to Marshall’s, James,” I say to my driver.

Looking back at me from the front seat, Simon says, “Now? You don’t want to wait until tomorrow?”

“No. We’re going there now.”

The car makes a few turns as we pull off the freeway and then back on again.

My eyes drift out the window for a moment to look at the rain that has been pelting down on the city all week.

Looking back to the picture, though, I see something I haven’t seen before—a light. Inside I feel an ember flaring to life.

My muscles are going taut with expectation.

I need to see this woman; I need to see if what the pictures show me is true.

Lily

My husband, Marshall, is sleeping beside me, snoring loudly, and I have the strongest urge to smack him.

I want to scream in his pale, pudgy face. I want to tell him to wake the fuck up. I want to ask him why he’s back in my bed.

But I just lay beside him and stare up at the ceiling instead.

It’s time to accept reality.

Our marriage is done.

Dead.

Today was the final nail in the coffin.

First thing in the morning, after I get the kids off to school, I’m going to meet with a divorce attorney. I can’t go on like this. This is no way to live, this is just…existing.

And I’m sick of it.

After growing up dirt poor, I married Marshall thinking I would finally have financial security. I would always have a roof over my head. I would never go hungry again.

Foolishly, I believed his lust for me would turn to love. That like an arranged marriage, our feelings for each other would grow after time. If we had children, we could make a real go of it.

But this, the lack of love, the lack of care, isn’t worth it. I rather starve than stay in this loveless marriage.

Marshall has been gone for weeks, traveling on business. He’s gone more than he’s home. Ever since our first child, Adam, was born six years ago, he’s been finding more and more reasons to leave us.

There’s always some client on the other coast that needs his help. Or some corporation up north that has to have his expertise or they’re going to lose millions on… something…

It’s funny, even after almost eight years of marriage I still don’t know exactly what his job title or true profession is. Whenever I ask him about it he just brushes me off, doesn’t have time to explain it, or says I wouldn’t understand.

Like I’m some kind of idiot.

If I was an idiot I wouldn’t know about all the women he’s been hooking up with. I know that’s one of the reasons he’s always leaving us. He has a girlfriend in every city.

Yet, he won’t even touch me when I throw myself at him.

I sigh, looking down at the red nightie I bought from Victoria’s Secret and pull the blanket up to cover my breasts.

He won’t even touch me when I’ve taken great pains to dress up for him.

Suddenly my eyes feel swollen and my nose stings. I have to blink back my tears and take a deep breath. Rolling my eyes back up, I focus on the ceiling.

This shouldn’t hurt, dammit. This isn’t a bad thing, this is good.

This is… freedom.

I no longer have to pretend this is a real marriage. No more keeping up appearances on Facebook. No more making excuses for him with my family and friends.

No more trying to explain to the children that daddy is sorry but he had to miss their birthday—again.

This is a fresh start, a new beginning.

I’ve been doing everything on my own for years now. Losing him won’t make much of a difference.

Marshall suddenly grunts loudly and rolls over.

The air turns sour and I resist the urge to gag.

Gah, he is such a pig.

2

Lily

I’m not sure what wakes me up. It could have been the light turning on.

Marshall’s loud, “What the fuck?”

Or the soft, menacing voice that says, “Hello, Marshall. I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”

Even under my warm blanket, that voice sends a chill down my spine and I peel my eyes open, shivering.

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