It was the darkest day of the season. The clouds hang grey and heavy begging to burst onto the earth while the winds blew cold and strong as if telling a sad story to the plains over the hills. Every one stayed indoors. The park was calm today, devoid of its usual cheer and flare. No children ran around, no parents sat and chatted happily while they watched their children play. Not a soul, save for Jane and her son sitting on the oldest park bench under the dark shade of the largest oak tree in the park. Another icy cold breeze blew past them. The child held himself closer, shivering.
“Ma!” Jane startled from her stare, “I’m cold. Aren’t you cold?” The child said moving closer to her, burying his head in her side. Unusually Jane did not shiver or shudder at the weather, even if she was barely dressed for it. She shook her head without looking at the boy. The weather didn’t seem to faze her or penetrate her thoughts. Sitting there, just the two of them, all alone in the cold, that’s what she had to look forward to. She looked up at the clouds, the perfect metaphor for her life at the moment. She could see the grey in the clouds; hear the sound of thunder from a far, smell the wet earth preparing for the rain. She sat there and took it all in because this was the calm before the storm. The calmest she could hope for. In a few hours, there would be a downpour like no other she had seen, one she was not sure she could survive.
She had always imagined herself a stronger woman, a woman worthy of so much more but time had proved her to be something else. Something she didn’t want to define, someone she was ashamed of. She travelled through her memories to 12 years ago, exactly 12 years ago. Everything was so different, less opaque, and less bleak. She had much more to look forward to then. She was young and so beautiful that she would joke and say she had to beat off her suitors with a stick. She knew a simple man would never been enough for her. She had to have the perfect man, she had to have Ben. Lucky for a younger Jane, Ben wanted to have her too. They met on the 5th, got engaged on the 10th and were married by the first of the next month. It was sheer madness, back then it felt like sweet madness, it intrigued and excited her at the same time. Now it felt like a case of simple stupidity, a symbol of her naivety and foolishness. She thought back. Oh how naïve she must have been to imagine a man could be perfect and remain perfect rather than just appear perfect. Oh how foolish had she been to imagine that he would reserve his love and affections for her always, especially after 12 whole years had gone by.
She loosened her fists and let out a sigh. The child looked up at her worriedly. She didn’t look down at him. She just caressed her wedding ring with her thumb. It was one of his upgrades, not her original ring, not the one that was blessed at their wedding. It was just another one of his guilt gifts. “Ring number 4.” She mumbled under her breath. The more wrong Ben did to her, the bigger and better that ring got. Their vows had been renewed twice and he was now planning their third honeymoon. But she was smarter now than she was 12 years ago, she saw through him and the façade that was their marriage. The first wedding ring upgrade was after Angela, his ‘fitness instructor’ for a year before Jane found out the truth. She tried to meet him at the gym for a couple’s workout. She never returned to a gym again. Their second honeymoon was after that girl Deedee showed up her door. She was a bit younger than Jane, prettier eyes, smaller frame, and all cried out, voice sore. Even Jane felt a pang of sympathy when she first saw her. She thought she was in danger or something. But she sat across from Jane behind a coffee mug Jane had served her and said they were having a child. Her Ben and this Deedee. Jane winced at the memory. She remembered she didn’t speak for a week after that, not to family, not to friends especially not to Ben. But he had returned two weeks later with tickets for a month on the Caribbean Islands. She caved again, bought into his love and forgave him.
He decided that they would renew their vows just after she found out about Joan. She was older, less attractive but she came with wealth that Jane had never even dreamed of. At first, he said they were ‘business partners’. She believed him only because she knew her life was expensive and so was his and furthermore she didn’t like to challenge Ben when it came to money. She met Joan in the back of a clothes store; Joan had followed Jane to the changing rooms. As soon as Jane stepped out to see herself in a new outfit she was trying on, Joan pounced on her screaming. “You whore! You stole my Ben and my money.” It took a while, a few security guards and a plain clothed policeman with a Taser to calm her down. Jane finally found out his ‘business partner’ was doing more than just business and Ben liked her so much he even told her that Jane was just one of his girlfriends. Jane left this time, a month at her parents’. But sure as rain, Ben came back with a wedding dress and a bigger wedding ring. She remembered him crying, on his knees. He looked so helpless and pathetic like he had made the worst mistake in his life. It felt different from the other times. So again she gave in, threw on the white gown and her biggest smile and invited everyone she knew to watch Ben recommit after all he had done. She felt like the prophet of forgiveness and new beginnings. A few months after, they were blessed with Jared, their baby boy. Jane loved that boy like she could love no other. Jared changed everything; not enough of everything however. Some things were still somewhat the same.
There came Katie and Charlie who were all so kind to reveal themselves to her as twin mistresses at a friend’s wedding. They were not really twin sisters. Jane assumed they enjoyed taking other women’s husbands, twice and together. Jane could still remember that night, clear as day. She had totally lost her grip on herself. It was the end; rather it felt like the end. She wasn’t going to take it anymore, she repeated to herself in a whisper. The man had no respect for her and now absolutely none for their son. She left Katie babbling about something she didn’t need to hear while Charlie agreed with her as vocally as she could. She walked straight towards him. Ben was standing in a crowd of people who seemed thoroughly entertained with his tales as he gestured and narrated. She shoved away two ladies who were obviously swooning over him. “One wasn’t enough! You had to have two mistresses, Ben??” She said as she flung her hands at him every which way just trying to hit him, hurt him, finally pay him back. The real police, uniform and all had to pull her away from him; at which point she was hysterical screaming, “I’ll kill you Ben, I swear!!” and brandishing a dinner fork. That time, she convinced herself she was staying with Ben for young Jared. So the vows were renewed again, bigger and better and the wedding ring had to big enough that it blinded all those women who tried to remind her of her crumbling marriage.
That was a long time ago too. Exactly three years ago. Jared was older now and the signs were more than clear. There was a new girl or new girls, you never knew with Ben. Ben said less, was seen less but certainly gave more; more money, a new car, talk of a new estate. Something seemed odd; No, not odd. Something rang all too familiar for Jane. So she sat there beside Jared, waiting for it to rain; in her life and on the ground. She looked down at Jared who had cuddled up to her side and fallen asleep. He was a rather peaceful boy but not a foolish one however. He would definitely notice if something changed. Jane thought of all the love that Jared had, despite all the animosity brought upon her by Ben and all the tension that still lingered. Jared didn’t appear to pick sides; and she didn’t want to make him choose. But did that mean she was doomed to fight mistresses all her life? Did it mean she would have to survive in that lonely, loveless marriage? She felt the burden of those 12 years on her shoulders. Her skin was now wrinkled and sagged a little under her eyes, her eyes sunk back into her sockets as if she was ailing. She was no longer full and round body, her curves had shed over the years. She was old now. She couldn’t compete. She didn’t want to compete. 12 years is a long time to fight for love, alone. She was tired and ready to give up. She was conflicted. She knew she had a duty to herself to walk away from the things that hurt her, use her and abuse her but she also knew that Jared needed his father. Evil man or not, adulterer or not, that man was his father.
One thing, however, rang clear in Jane’s mind; Ben was a cheater, an all-round fully fletched cheater. And he wouldn’t change; not for Jared, their son and certainly not for her. She had to admit it and accept it. She had married a cheater and she was now plagued with the curse of the other woman!