“Never,” Ana replied.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I broke up with him,” she announced.
Oh God, this can’t be happening to me! Rob thought. I had just gotten over the hump, used to the idea of divorce. “Why in the world would you do that now?”
Ana noticed that her husband sounded anything but pleased with the news. “Something’s gone terribly wrong. I don’t know what’s come over Michael. He’s like a whole different person from the man I fell in love with.”
“Not really,” Rob disagreed. “He’s the same person who cheated on, lied to, manipulated and then dumped his fiancée once he got tired of her and got a hold of you. The love of your life. Everything you’ve ever wanted in a man. Ideal lover… right… You were so blind, it made me sick! This guy gets more ass than a freaking toilet seat!”
“Please. You don’t need to launch into a character assassination of him.”
“There’s nothing to assassinate since he’s got no character,” Rob retorted.
“Just remember that Michael’s also been under a lot of pressure lately,” she reminded him.
I can’t believe she’s still defending that jerk! Rob fumed. “The poor guy… After he deceived and manipulated everyone. Now I’m supposed to feel sorry for him?”
“Nobody’s asking you to feel sorry for anybody.” The moment didn’t feel right. But when would it feel better? After a slight hesitation, she gathered the nerve to ask him: “Do you still want me to leave?”
“I’m not going to throw you out into the street,” he circumvented her real question. He wished he had the strength to tell her that it was too late; that they had reached the point of no return. But would it be true? he wondered, still feeling divided.
“Would you like me to rent an apartment?” she reformulated her question, sensing ambivalence.
Rob didn’t know how to respond. He knew that probably any other man, any normal man, would tell her to go ahead and leave, as she had originally intended. But something inside of him prevented him from closing the door on their relationship. My worst fears have been confirmed, he reflected, considering his love for Ana as a terrible, self-defeating weakness. Now I’ll be stuck in a hopeless marriage for the rest of my life, with a woman who needs me but can’t love me. What did I ever do to deserve this? he asked himself, filled with self-pity. “You do what you want. You always do what you want,” he finally said, unwilling to be the one responsible for the break up of their family.
This wasn’t the reaction Ana hoped for, but it was the one she expected. “I want to give our marriage another chance,” she said quietly.
“You want to give me another chance?” Rob asked, disturbed by her ambiguous formulation.
“I didn’t say that.” Ana breathed in and out to gather the courage to tell him what was really on her mind. “I want to work on our relationship. To make it what it should have been in the first place. For us to have our meals together, sleep together, be mutually faithful and be more loving and appreciative of each other than we were. I want a fresh start,” she pleaded with her dark eyes.
Is this another ruse? Rob wondered. “How do you expect me to believe any of this when you’re still defending him?”
“I won’t defend him if you don’t attack him anymore.”
“So now it’s my fault,” Rob observed under his breath, incensed again. A sordid idea occurred to him. “You’re just as sadistic as he is! You want to give me and the kids hope that we can be a happy family and once we begin to believe you, you’ll turn around and go to him anyway.”
Ana had been prepared for a downright refusal, but not for this accusation. “What? No! I’d never do something like that. I’m telling you, it’s all over between us.”
Rob didn’t know what to believe anymore. “And I’m telling you that I don’t trust you,” he said, to test her reaction and gather more evidence, for or against her.
“How can I make you trust me again?”
“By not praising him anymore, for starters. By not comparing us at all. By being faithful to me. By loving me,” he said, exasperated. “You should already know this. I shouldn’t have to tell you!”
“Okay,” Ana agreed, eager to pacify him.
Okay? That’s it? If only things were so easy to fix in real life. “We’ll need some serious counseling to even begin to undo some of the damage to our marriage,” Rob said, feeling drained.
He retreated into the bedroom to contemplate this new development. He threw himself on top of the bed, his arms behind his head, his heart slowing down to the tempo of discouragement, of a profound sense of hopelessness. She won’t let me move on in peace, he disconsolately observed. Then it occurred to him that Ana would probably reconcile with her lover if he rejected her at this point. His blood boiled when he imagined his children raised by such a man. This is a guy who has admitted to his own girlfriend that he slept with dozens of women, Rob recalled. Strangely enough, Ana sees no problem with this fact. Could he hide his sexual addiction from my children? Would he convince her that it would be “for the good of the children” to initiate them into the ways of sex? He wouldn’t be the first stepfather to do so. What would there be to stop him? Certainly not his conscience, since he’s got no scruples. Would Ana be capable of standing up to him to protect our kids when she yielded to everything he wanted so far?
His thoughts reverted to his wife. Ana had stated that she wanted to work on their marriage. She had told him from the very beginning that she didn’t want to leave him; that Michael had pressured her into divorce. But the problem remains, Rob thought, how can I ever trust her again? One thing’s become transparently clear to me: Michael would be sheer destruction for her. If she moves in with him, all of her previous pining for him would become pining for the wholesome family she left behind. His so-called charm would turn into domination. Eventually this would become sheer torture for her, since she’s so willful and proud. It probably already has and that’s why she broke up with him. But I wanted Ana to choose me rather than to reject him! Rob thought with a sinking feeling.
Yet a decision has to be made, since we’ve already had several weeks of limbo, he continued reasoning. I’ll take her up on her offer to work on our marriage, for the sake of our children and because I still see potential in it, he resolved. But his heart wasn’t really into it. Everything will stay in balance for as long as Ana remains under his spell, Rob qualified. And I don’t want to be strung along anymore if divorce is inevitable. Oh, God… What a shitty existence! We’ve got to see a marriage counselor right away, he concluded.
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