“Oh, come on. It’s not that hard,” Michelle chimed in, more to irritate her little brother than to assist him with his homework. “Look, six times seven means six plus six seven times. Get it?”
“I don’t want her to help me!” Allen objected, now feeling provoked by his sister in addition to being distracted from a very important game of Nintendo by the homework in question.
“Michelle, would you mind working on your own homework?” Rob suggested in a tired voice.
“I already finished it. All I had was reading.” Michelle said, scooting her chair closer to her brother’s, to be able to peer over his shoulder.
“Daddy, tell her to go away!” Allen screeched.
At this point, Rob noticed that his wife had returned. “Where were you?”
“I went shopping,” she replied, then thought her answer must sound implausible.
“I could have used a little help with the kids,” Rob responded, resenting the fact that after a full day’s work, he had to spend the rest of the evening tending to the children on his own. “Sometimes I feel like a single dad around here.”
“Usually, I pick up the kids from school, make them dinner and help them with their homework,” Ana pointed out in her own defense.
“Yeah but while I’m at work, you get to relax in your studio all day long,” Rob commented irately.
Ana felt her cup overflow. Enough was enough. Without saying a word, she ran up the stairs to her bedroom, taking two steps at a time.
The first thing that caught her eye was the neon light of the alarm clock, indicating that it was 9:34 p.m. After washing her face with cold water in the bathroom, Ana changed into the animal print teddy that Michael had given her and slipped under the covers. The softness of the down blanket soothed her weary body, enveloping her in a physical comfort that felt almost maternal. Her head sunk into the pillow. She closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind of all worries. As she was beginning to relax and drift off to sleep, the room suddenly turned bright red through her closed eyelids. Ana opened her eyes. The overhead light blinded her at first, but after a few blinks she discerned her husband’s approaching figure.
“Sorry if I was so hard on you earlier. I had a tough day at work myself,” Rob said apologetically. He got under the covers and touched Ana’s shoulder, hoping to make peace with her.
“I’m really tired tonight,” she assumed the cold manner that had become a constant source of humiliation to him.
He took the hint but didn’t leave the room. If only out of principle, Rob decided to reclaim his bed: the rightful place he had relinquished for years. For the next few minutes, husband and wife lay quietly side by side. Neither of them could fall asleep.
Rob stared blankly at the ceiling, contemplating the sad state of their marriage. Ana’s hardly a wife to me anymore, he thought. I’m not even welcome in the same bed with her. She doesn’t have a reliable career, yet still leaves too much of the childcare upon my shoulders. And what about her constant meetings? If she has so many clients for her paintings, then how come she got kicked out of Tracy’s gallery? Rob began nursing his suspicions, which had grown in direct proportion to the frequency of his wife’s absences.
Lying on her side, her back turned to her husband, Ana was considering the reverse side of the coin. He doesn’t love me anymore. Instead of being supportive like Michael, he blames me for my failures even when I do my best. We’ve grown too far apart to stay together, she concluded.
“Where were you really this evening?” Rob asked her.
Ana’s nerves were stretched to the maximum. “I have something to tell you,” she turned to him, ready to disburden herself, out of an incongruous mixture of guilt and contempt. “I fell in love with someone else. I’ve been seeing him for months. I was with him this evening.”
Her confession was greeted with silence. Rob felt too stunned to respond. Although the thought that his wife might be having an affair did occur to him, he had always dismissed the idea. He told himself that a frigid woman wouldn’t take a lover. But now the clues began falling into place. His chest felt constricted and his thoughts were a blur. “Who is he?” he asked after a few moments, seeking clarity.
“He’s a grad student in the French department at the university.”
“Do you love him?” Rob’s voice sounded faint and strained.
“Yes,” Ana affirmed. Everything that had been so muddled in her mind before became, all of a sudden, crystal clear. “Rob, I want a divorce,” she stated resolutely.
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