Breaking: The Other Woman’s Curse

Abby could feel herself sweating, profusely at that. She wasn’t sure if it was the weather; it was hotter today than it had been for months, or the stuffy coffee shop he had picked to meet her. She was overly nervous. She hadn’t seen Ben since the small altercation at her apartment that she had to admit had ended in her favour. He had assured her that his mind was still on one track; leaving his wife. So when he asked to meet her, she could only assume he had done so to finally make good on his promise. It had taken him longer than she’d expected but she wouldn’t dwell on that now; she had waited to pick up where they had left off. Finally, love, their love, would conquer all; his wife, his children, everything would fade away at the sheer sight of their love. Finally, she could show off the perfect man she had earned because Ben would be hers. Finally, she could start a family of her own. Excitement began to boil over inside her, almost overflowing in shrieks of joy and glee. She could hardly calm herself down.

She swung round in her seat to search for someone to take her order. Suddenly, Abby became deeply aware of everything and everyone around her. It had dawned on her that this coffee shop didn’t fit Ben’s idea of romantic. Why did he ask to meet her here? Everything seemed out of place for her grand expectations of this encounter. Despite everything, she ordered coffee and began to calm down. Right in front of her, was a table with a group of women a little older than she was. They gossiped so loudly that Abby took it for entertainment while she drank her coffee. The troubling toddler tales and stubborn husband gags amused her so much that she felt herself being drawn into their conversation, slowly becoming a silent part of these women’s bonding moment. She even found herself giggling along with them. She saw a future her in these women; Her with Ben, her future social circle. She imagined they would be her social cronies when she married into Ben’s status. Then suddenly, as if in a ceremonial remorse, the lady at the head of the table leaned forward on her elbows. All the other ladies mimicked, etching forward on their seats. Even Abby leaned in to listen. In a whisper loud enough for all to hear, she broke ‘the news’

“I have news, Ladies. Ben, Jane’s husband! He has ANOTHER mistress!” The ladies at the table all sighed in surprise. Abby, seated at the table them, panicked, Could they be talking about me? Oh lord, they’re talking about me.

“Mistress number six?” Another lady exclaimed.

Ben has had five other mistresses?

“I can’t wait to see which infant girl he’s hoodwinked into helping him break his vows now”

Hoodwinked? I wasn’t hoodwinked, was I?

“Poor Jane. Jared’s only three and Lord knows she can’t do it on her own.”

He told me his wife was a successful arrogant woman who never gave him any attention or ‘love’. 

“And to think, all the nice things he said up there when they were renewing those vows.”

How nice could these words possibly be? Seeing as Ben loves me so much, he couldn’t possibly love another more, could he? Does he? 

“Do you remember that ring he got her? Shame now it means nothing”

Was he going to get her another ring? That means he didn’t leave her

“Do you think she’ll leave this time?”

SHE?! But Ben’s leaving her. Isn’t he? Has he not left her yet?

“Why doesn’t he leave?” Another lady said as if reading Abby’s mind.

“He never does. He just hurts her and hurts her and hurts her some more then comes back with the shiniest thing he can find to distract her.”

But, No? He told me! He told me! He told me! He’s leaving her!

“And to think, all this for a bimbo, probably with nothing between her ears and the unquenchable urge to spread her legs.” Abby’s face began turning red.

“You know, ladies, I just don’t get those kinds of women.”They all nodded in unison.”Why would you want leftovers, some other lady’s remains when you could get your own man, fresh off the rack, groom him and walk into the sunset with your self-made king?” The ladies all burst into laughter as she gestured violently. “As opposed to laying down for a man looking for a side attraction; already groomed, already made by another woman’s work while he struggles to keep you a secret. But I guess that’s what the cheap ones do. The ones who can’t build a good man or find a good man on their own. They just steal yours.”

Abby was balancing tears on the edges of her eye sockets now. The feelings that had since disappeared when Ben had assured her that he would leave his wife, all came sprinting back. She suddenly felt nauseated. These women barely knew her, let alone their love. How could they judge her this way? How could they judge their love? But while they went on about their loathing of mistresses and their own personal tales of them, Abby began to see herself in their cruel words. She began to see how evil their love, which she was now considering might as well be lust, had turned out to be. She was a home wrecker, one who could be likened only to the arsonist who torches a man and his family’s home right before their eyes.

She got up suddenly unable to listen to the banter and gossip anymore. Without looking at anything or anyone else, she walked to her car. She dropped her head on the wheel and began to cry. Here she was, ready to meet Ben and hear him give her all she wanted when suddenly, as if by twist of fate she is reminded of the plight of his soon to be excommunicated wife. She hadn’t bothered herself thinking about Jane since her botched confession with the Father. Instead she had decided to live in a bubble of Ben’s affection. In a bubble where Jane, Jared and all of Ben’s other children did not exist; and she met Ben at party or at the store; and they had since fallen deep in love and encountered no obstacles to their joint happiness. But the Gossip Guild had just popped her Ben Bubble and all the emotional sewage that had been caused by their affair came rushing in, tainting her and their ‘love’. It was impossible for her to let Ben just walk away now, especially if it was for her. How could she? Clearly as the ladies said, Jane could not fend for herself and Jared if Ben were to suddenly check out. But it had begun to occur to her, maybe he wasn’t leaving her at all and he had only said so to keep the affair going for a little longer. Maybe, like the five, obviously naïve, women before her, he had used her and now as his chicken came home to roast, he would discard her and spend a small fortune trying to get his wife to forgive him. The more she thought it through, the more she saw Ben for who he was and their love for what it was, an affair.

With this realization, she raised her head to drive away. She caught a glimpse of Ben walking into the coffee shop looking for her. Her heart began to race instantly. She was now short of breath, panting and sweating; panting and sweating for him. Despite the emotional roller-coaster she had just gone on, Abby still felt herself mindlessly drawn to Ben. She fought the urge to run into his arms furiously and started her car. As she drove away, she couldn’t fight the fact that she still wanted to be with Ben, still wanted him to abandon his wife and children for her; no matter what it did to her character, reputation or karma. If she was confronted by him again, she wouldn’t be able to resist.

***

Jane was engrossed in one of her old photo albums of Jared’s pictures when a loud crude knock at the door startled her. She had been packing up the house when she wandered off onto Memory Lane. She shuffled to the door, trying to avoid boxes and furniture everywhere. When she opened the door, there stood an attractive young lady, well dressed with bloodshot eyes and runny make up from crying, stomping her leg impatiently.

“Jane?” Abby exclaimed so suddenly, almost scaring Jane.

“Yes?” Jane answered inquisitively.

“I’m Abby. You don’t know me…”

“No, I don’t” Jane had to admit that had come off rude

“But… I’ve been sleeping with your husband, for a few months now and….” Abby paused, gauging Jane’s reaction. Her face remained expressionless, “And I apologize.”

“Why?” Jane said cold-hearted, shoving down her primal urge to bash her face in and pull out locks of her hair one by one.

“Why did I sleep with him?” Abby asked embarrassed

“No! I know why you did that. You’re young, naïve and most importantly stupid. You’re just his type. You slept with him because he approached you and that’s what young, naïve and most importantly stupid girls do when a successful man approaches them.” Jane was careful not to let her bitterness show, Abby’s mouth fell open. “I mean, why are you apologizing?”

“Because I feel horrible. Because you did nothing wrong to me and I’m here ruining your family, your life. Because I was selfish to want him all to myself when you had him first. That’s why I’m apologizing.” Jane was a little shocked. She had expected Ben’s new mistress to claim her man more aggressively, not apologize. She had been on the other end of Ben’s cheating for a long time and yet this was the most sincere apology she has ever heard in its regard. This woman had looked at both sides of the affair, unlike most mistresses, and put herself in Jane’s shoes. She had gone the extra mile to consider the pain Jane had gone through with a chronically unfaithful man and the dilemma she faced of deciding whether the pain was enough for her to tear down the family they had built together and start anew. While deep in this thought, Abby startled her screaming out as if she had a sudden bout of verbal diarrhoea,

“I think he wants to marry me.”

“What?” Jane retorted.

“I think he wants to marry me. You’re packing and I was to meet him right this moment but I was too nervous. So that means he really wants to marry me” Jane’s eyes narrowed. She saw through Abby now. Naïve little critter, She wanted him for herself, like all mistresses would. She imagined this mess could all be fixed if she just came up with a way to keep Jane, the wife out of their lives; and Jared too. This girl standing in front of her, did not know what it meant to be married to Ben. She imagined it would be sunflowers, daisies and fresh almond milk every day. She was not completely malicious, just naïve. Craving the things that all girls her age longed for. Craving the things even Jane longed for 12 years ago. And with Ben being so close to her reach and her only obstacle being the jaded bitter ‘soon-to-be ex-wife’ and his child, Abby would have done anything for her happily ever after; even if it meant serving up a well-dramatized apology she didn’t mean or care for. Jane smiled and let Abby in,

“Let’s talk in here, shall we?” Abby was thrown off a bit, she expected a beating, not an invitation. But she owed her ‘co-wife’ that much, a conversation about Ben.

Jane had been the sorrowful heartbroken wife and she had been the hysterical delusional wife too when it came to Ben’s indiscretions. States of mind that had never bred any significant change in Ben or his behavior. Now, she had resolved to be the sober wife, the wise one who bites her tongue until need be. She hadn’t discussed it all with Ben; Abby, the affair, her resolutions, none of them. She figured if she gave him the chance, he’d lie his way into her heart one last time and as always she’d be humiliated as soon as the next affair broke. This time, Jane would go for an Irish goodbye. She would not need to scold him for retribution, her absence and Jared’s too would be his abyss, Abby would be the devil and Jane, she would be in heaven with her baby boy. Abby sat at the dining table, Jane began to brew a hot cup of tea.

“So, you’re getting married!” Jane exclaimed. “I would congratulate you but I see no jubilation in your future because your future is my present.”

“He’s not going to cheat on me. I just know.”  Abby was confident

“Why not?” Abby was quiet, “What makes you the woman he is faithful for, Abby? Come on, tell me!” Abby still did not speak. Jane poured the tea and served Abby a cup, all while letting her maul over the idea. She then sat across from Abby, took her hand and said softly,

“I tell you this because I see that look in your eyes when you talk about him. It’s like you know you’ll win the lottery soon and now you’re just holding your ticket as tight as you can, hoping you don’t lose it. The problem though, is that it has never occurred to you that maybe you don’t have the winning numbers.” Jane paused, took a sip of her tea, letting go of Abby’s hand, “Ben is that lottery ticket. At the beginning, it feels promising like you’re just about to win the lottery but slowly you begin to realize he doesn’t have the winning number, he just appears to. Do you understand me, Abby?” Abby remained quiet. She felt a glow of anger come up from her stomach, she’s trying to sabotage us.

“I know you’re probably trying to convince yourself that I’m sabotaging you and Ben but I’m not. I’ve had Ben. I know what he’s about. He doesn’t look as shiny to me as he does to you. I guess that’s what happens when you stick in it for 12 years. It shines less and less until it doesn’t anymore. Underneath you can finally see the disgusting filth that is rooted at the core, in his very being. But, I don’t need to tell you that, you’ll get to find out soon enough. I shouldn’t spoil it for you.” Abby’s eyes were filled with tears now, realizing that Jane was right and her life now would be Abby’s in a couple of months, or years.

Suddenly, Jane’s door flung open and Ben’s voice bellowed over the ladies.  “Jaaane! Why are all these boxes out?” He said as he walked into the kitchen where the ladies were enjoying their tea. Ben stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Abby and Jane getting chatty over tea.

“Oh! That’s because Abby’s moving in. Thought I’d give her a tour.” Jane said sarcastically, more amused with the situation than she should have been

“What are you doing here?” Ben asked Abby, ignoring his wife’s obvious enjoyment of the predicament. She turned to look at him, making sure he saw her eyes were sore from crying.

“Actually Jane,” Abby turned to Jane now, “I’ve changed my mind. I don’t think I like your ‘roommate’ that much anymore.” She gathered herself, shook Jane’s hand with a genuine smile of gratitude and left. She did not look back at Ben. His eyes followed her out of the room, not wanting to set his wife off by actually chasing after his mistress.

“You can follow her if you like.” Ben looked confused. “I’m packing because I’m leaving Ben. If you want to beg and whine, I suggest you follow her. I’ve heard the repentance speech before” Like a dog released by his master’s whistle, Ben ran out the door and did not look back either; hoping to catch Abby and try one more sweet lie. Jane giggled hysterically as she watched him sprint after the girl who didn’t want him anyway. And in that moment, the emotional burden she had been carrying lifted marvelously as she realized that she had indeed already broken the other woman’s curse.

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Photo Credits: Maureen ‘Moe’ Ndereba of DIYbyMoe
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Manning Mysteries – Det. Cooper Series

Coop was staring past his badge in his hands when Rodger arrived with a scribble pad. Seeing the intense concentration in the detective’s eyes, Rodger hesitated even if he knew Cooper had seen him rush over to his cubicle. “Speak Rookie. What’d you find on Manning?” Coop said calmly raising from his seat. His tone was calmer, more collected than before. Rodger sensed that Cooper was more relaxed now than he was during their previous encounter that day.  “Well, her body was discovered in her new cottage when she was twenty-eight, twenty years ago. Her death was ruled a suicide and the case closed.” Rodger paused, searching his notepad with his eyes. “Something I don’t know, Rookie. Something we missed” Cooper said impatiently but surprisingly cautious not to intimidate the rookie like before.  This case took him back to the beginning, rock bottom, when he had nothing, knew nothing, and most importantly was nothing.

Twenty years ago, he had been a timid naïve rookie who’d barely made it out of the academy with a passing grade. Had it not been for his mentor and partner back then and a lot of strings pulling behind the curtain, Detective Cooper would have been just plain old Officer Cooper, directing traffic, picking up petty offenders or something more degrading. Twenty years ago, people reacted very differently when Cooper walked into the station. His partner back then, Bernstein Mitchell, was a seasoned detective with killer instincts. Mitchell seemed to be the only one who embraced Rookie Cooper back then.  He treated Cooper like a son, taught him everything he knew; most importantly taught him how to hold his own in the force. The day Cooper that found Estelle Manning was his third week on the force. He was still new, with only petty thefts and vandalism on his score card. Mitchel deliberately led Coop into the cottage first. Estelle Manning lay prostrate in a pool of blood on newly polished kitchen floors. Immediately, Cooper lost his composure while it was replaced with horror and discomfort. Cooper had raced out of the room, nauseated and ashamed of his reaction to the first dead body he ever saw. He was horrified, demented, terrified and scarred all at the same time. Of course, Mitchell wasn’t surprised by Rookie Cooper’s reaction.  “The kid was fresh from the academy, believing in rainbows and riding unicorns of course dead ladies scare him” He defended Cooper while the other officers teased and Rookie  Cooper dispelled what was left of his breakfast into the small flower bed near the  door.

Detective Cooper had come an extremely long way from that timid rookie; sick to his stomach in Estelle Manning’s quaint cottage. Now, the site of murder, no matter how gruesome, did not repulse him. Blood became something he had to get used to seeing even if it was his own. Being a homicide detective and all, Mitchell had said it was the only way. Mitchell and Coop were partners nine years after that; up until Mitchell was promoted to the highest rank in the station, Chief and Coop finally became a detective. Despite Cooper’s aloof nature, he managed to form some semblance of a sentimental relationship with Mitchell and Mitchell alone. No partner had ever gotten so close, No officer had ever gotten so close. Mitchell and Coop had always known that there was something suspicious about Estelle Manning’s suicide. Coop had frantically argued that they keep investigating her death, rather than rule it a suicide. Mitchell himself had been conflicted but had executively decided on the suicide verdict after some pressure from the top.

“Well, for starters. She is the only victim found at their own residence, that’s got to count for something, yes?” Rodger tried to indulge the day dreaming Cooper. He got no response but a ‘Please continue’ hand gesture from Brown who had also come over  to weigh in. “Like Alicia, the weapon used to slash her wrists was never found. But unlike the rest, she has family right here in the city.” Right on cue, Coop came back from his reveries of the past. He was not calm anymore; he was back to his anxious obnoxious self.  “Here? Address?” Rodger scribbled it down quickly and carelessly noticing the change in tone. Cooper grabbed it and seconds later, he was revving up the mustang engine yelling at Brown to hurry and get into the car.

***

Exactly forty-four minutes later, Det. Cooper and Brown were knocking gently on Lynette Fischer’s door, Estelle Manning’s last living relative. Cooper impatiently tapped his foot rhythmically on the wooden front porch. Brown knocked on the door again, a bit harder this time. Still no response. Cooper began to become anxious, tapping his foot more vigorously by the second. His eyes darted all around the front yard and his hand drew closer to his holster. He grabbed on his pistol readily and knocked again, even harder than before shouting “Open up! Police” As if from nowhere, a middle-aged lady furiously flung the door open. You could tell that this lady had once been breath-taking; most probably with a smile that could bring peace. However, now she stood slightly slouched, with her eyes sunken, her lips cracked and her wrinkles more pronounced than anyone would care to admit. She did not smile, she only grimaced hard. Cooper in her eyes saw the life he had never seen in Estelle’s even twenty years later and a few years apart in age, the resemblance between them was uncanny. Estelle would have looked like this, Cooper thought to himself.

Brown almost never spoke when Coop was around; he always felt out-of-place. Today was no different. So as Cooper ogled at similarities, Brown stood awkwardly staring at Coop, waiting for him to speak. Coop didn’t come to. Brown cleared his throat. “Miss Fischer?” Cooper and Lynette corrected him in unison, “Mrs Fischer!” Cooper continued. “My name is Det. Cooper and this is Det. Brown. We would like to ask you some questions.  Can we come in?“

“A bout of concern came over Lynette’s face as she nodded and showed them in. “Before we begin, Detective, just tell me this. Is it the children?” Lynette worried out loud while she led them to her living room. Brown was the comforter and the master of reassurance, so naturally he took the emotional doubts and queries while Coop asked the hard questions. “No, Ma’am. This has nothing to do with your children. Is this them?” Brown said comfortingly, pointing to a portrait of them on the wall in the living room. “Yes. What is it then?” Lynette was now a little irritated, knowing that this matter steered clear of her children.

“Your sister, Ma’am. A similar case has brought to our attention. There is now a great possibility that your sister did not kill herself; she was murdered. We were wondering if you could be of any help.” Coop took over swiftly in his calmest voice. However, Lynette seemed to be rid of a heavy burden hearing Det. Cooper’s question. “I knew I recognized you. You’re the guy who looked me and my parents in the face and told us Essie had killed herself.” Lynette spoke calmly at first. “Yes I am.” Came the reply. “Now, you are telling me. Someone killed her.” Lynette’s voice began to grow sour. “Yes I am. “Cooper nodded again. Lynette’s voice cracked “Twenty years! You think you’re right now, Detective?” Det. Cooper spoke more audibly now, taking responsibility. “I was just a rookie then, No resources, no instincts, no knowledge. Fate has brought your sister’s justice in my sights again. This time I’m ready.” He moved closer to her with his words, seeking true redemption and a second chance.

But Lynette was hysterical now. She screamed so loudly, no one could hear her words. She began to fling her arms at Detective Cooper in an attempt to hit, maybe hurt him. Cooper took a slap or two, a scratch here and there, until he felt the need to defend himself. He held her wrists tight over her head, when she began to kick him. Another kick here and there, then she went for his manhood. Det. Cooper instinctively moved to the side, pinned her to the wall and drew his Smith & Wesson in her face. Her body froze and she began to hyperventilate so that she was unable to speak. “I’ve killed people for a lot less, Lady.” Det. Cooper smiled at her and withdrew his weapon. He heard the ‘all too familiar’ sounds of the siren when Brown came in panting. “Brown, did you call the cops? You idiot! I wasn’t going to hurt her. Now Chief will kill me”