Victoria lay in the darkness and stared at the ceiling. Sleep had totally eluded her and the alarm clock on the end table read one in the morning. The night was quiet but for the snoring beside her: her husband peacefully asleep, unaware of a restless wife beside him. Victoria couldn’t take it anymore. “Honey? Wake up?” she shook him, softly at first, and then vigorously. The curtains were drawn apart and moonlight beamed into the upstairs bedroom.

         “Wh…at? What?” Matt woke up with a confused look on his face.

         “I wonna talk to you!” Victoria said as she sat up and brought her knees to her chest.

         “About what?” Matt said as he glanced at the time. “It’s one in the morning honey, can’t we talk later? I have to go to work.”

         “It can’t wait,” Victoria said as she yanked the blanket away from his face.

         “Alright, okay,” Matt said as he turned and lay on his back. “What’s this all about?”

         Victoria paused and chose her words carefully. There would be no going back after this. This wasn’t exactly a dream topic after ten years of marriage. She closed her eyes as she spoke the words. “Matt, are you sleeping with your workmate Bethany?”

         She felt her husband tense and then grow very still. It was as though he had seen something horrific. And then he was back: first, a nervous chuckle, and then feigned indifference in his voice. “Come on honey, you know me better than that. Is this why you woke me up? Who told you this nonsense?”

         “The rumors have been going on for a while. I can’t ignore them any longer.” Victoria sounded almost tired, like she had been thinking about the issue for a long time and it was consuming her.

         “Rumors? You are going to believe rumors over me? Look at me.” Matt rose up to his wife’s level. “I love you Victoria, I would never do that to you, to us. What we have is very special and a lot of folks envy that and would do anything to make us loose that which they can’t have. Let’s go back to bed honey. I love you and will always love you.” He kissed her on the cheek and then slid into the sheets and covered his head.

         She sat still for a long time and stared at the moon through the window. She subconsciously listened to his breathing and knew that he wasn’t asleep. Ten years of marriage and a beautiful daughter, they had always been the perfect family… happy. Marriage life had been a flip for her. Some of her old friends had dropped off to be replaced by new ones, mostly friends with kids. She had stopped dreaming wild and lately derived pleasure from smaller things: the laughter of her daughter, a hug from her husband. Not once had she ever pictured the possibility of dealing with infidelity or a broken home. Now, and many years later, she knew, the rumors were true. It wasn’t in her husband’s words, but in his face and eye movement. She had studied those eyes for ten years, and ignored the casual lies that were a part of human nature. And now those same eyes looked different: they twitched and moved nervously, bereft of moral responsibility.

         Victoria slid out of bed, turned on the overhead light and walked over to the closet. She took out her travelling bag and started throwing clothes inside: packing her things, the good clothes, the dirty ones …shoes. The time was two in the morning.

         “What you doing?” Matt said as he sat up in bed squinting his eyes to the light, looking half shocked. Victoria continued throwing clothes into the bag: there were tears in her eyes.

         “I’m leaving you Matt,” she said without turning around.

         Matt jumped out of bed like he had been electrocuted. “You are leaving me because of rumors? For goodness sake, we have a daughter… and a family!”

         Victoria didn’t reply and Matt walked over and yanked the bag from her hands. But when she turned around, her eyes were red and demonic; the tears cascaded down her face like a stream. She raised a finger and thumped his chest as he backed away terrified. “You, you…” she said, choking with emotion. “You have no idea what the word family means!” She strutted over to the shelf, grabbed a dictionary and threw it at him. “I gave you everything … my heart, soul and a beautiful daughter. And this … you would cheat on me?” She was livid and he had never seen this side of her. He was taken aback.

         “I didn’t cheat on you honey. I never would.” His voice waivered.

         She walked over to the door, still dressed in a nightgown. She ran down the stairs to the front door but he got there before her.

         “Honey please think this through before you leave. You can’t throw our lives away like this. We’ve been married for ten years. I love you!” His voice was frantic.

         She paused and folded her hands over her chest and then in a tone that he had never heard said, “Remember what I told you about honesty? I hate people lying to me.” She grinded her teeth and bunched up both her hands into fists. “I would rather deal with the truth than live like a fool. Not knowing and wondering about the honesty and integrity of my husband.”

         Matt’s voice turned desperate. “I swear am telling the truth honey. Please believe me?”

         “How many times?” she asked.

         “What?”

         Silence. The sound of the waves slamming against the rocks. She repeated slowly. “How- many- times - have you slept with her?”

         “Honey?” he said then stopped when she made a move for the door.

         “Okay, okay! You want to hear it. Fine. Once. Are you happy now!”

         She almost fainted, the blood drained from her face. This wasn’t happening. Doubt was something else, but knowing? … knowing?… the truth hurt like a bullet ... the truth, she couldn’t fathom. She opened her mouth and nothing came out. She closed it.

         “It was a big mistake honey. Please believe me. We were working late and drinking wine and I don’t know what happened after that. The following days and months were awkward for us because we both knew that we had made a mistake. I swear honey it was a mistake, please forgive me, am sorry!” He was crying like a baby. “I didn’t know how to tell you. I couldn’t bear the thought of you leaving me, us breaking up. I love you with all my heart. I’m sorry honey, please forgive me!”

         She couldn’t look at him and so she looked at the floor, her neck cracked to one side in a minor state of shock and disbelief. The tears only came from one eye: the other eye didn’t blink.

         “We are done Matt, move away from the door!”

         It was the way she said it that made him move and slump to the floor. He didn’t have the energy to resist her any more, not after his confession.

         Cold wind hit her face as she ran down the beach. Fresh air felt like a drug and her feet sank in the coarse sand. The ocean waters had retreated with the tide and jagged rocks prevented her from running too close to the ocean bed. The wind brought the distant sound of the waves and salt in his eyes. Ten years, she thought as she ran.

         Victoria ran until she could run no longer and then she climbed up some boulders and lay down hugging the rocks. At first, she just lay there dazed, and then her insides exploded when she started seeing visions of her husband on top of another woman, naked. The heart shattering sobs came and she began to hyperventilate. She pictured Matt’s big hands on a strange woman’s back, his scent in her nose, and his moans in her ears. And Victoria cried relentlessly and craved for sanctuary. All she had ever wanted in her life was Matt: an honest and loving man. And now, in the wink of an eye and a few words, her life was shuttered. Victoria cried until finally she fell asleep on top of the rocks. The sea level began to rise again.



Someone yelled her name and Victoria woke up with a start, saliva drooping on the rocks. Matt? Yes, she knew that voice from anywhere. Victoria woke up startled, her right hand was deep in the water, the tide had returned. She quickly jumped to her feet and took a step backwards.

         “Victoria!” she heard Matt yelling.

         The sun was up high as Victoria took a step away from the voice, but in the process, tripped and fell. She floated in the air for a few seconds before crashing into the deep water. Water slapped her body and it hurt. A wave of panic overtook her and she flayed her hands desperately as she tried to find an anchor to what was happening. She had always been a great swimmer and so she kicked her legs and rose to the surface. The ocean roared around her and a huge wave slammed into her face like a giant fist. She went down and the undercurrent waves carried her and slammed her against the rocks. She began to sink slowly to the ocean bed, her eyes dilated as the water got into her lungs. So this is what death felt like, was her last thought before darkness consumed her.

         Victoria opened her eyes and closed them. The light was too bright. She opened them again, this time slowly. Everything around her was white and it took a few minutes for her to realize that she was in the hospital. She tried to move her body, starting with the fingers, leg and then neck. Everything seemed to be okay, except her back, which felt numb.

         She turned her head around and saw her husband watching her from an armchair near the bed.

         “You are awake!” Matt said hysterically as he jumped out of his chair and moved close to the bed.

         And then Victoria remembered and she tried to push him away with the little strength that she had. “No. Nooo… not you Matt. I don’t ever wonna see you again. Not you!” Sad tears fell down her face and the sight crushed Matt. The nurse came running and told him to leave. She then continued to give Victoria a sedative to calm her down and Victoria fell asleep shortly after.

         When she woke up again, a nurse was looking down her face asking her how she felt. She said okay and the nurse continued to inspect her body, testing for signs of pain through her reactions.

         “What happened to me?” Victoria finally asked.

         “Oh,” the nurse said. “You don’t remember? You fell over a cliff. You are so lucky to be alive little girl. And that husband of yours must love you a lot. He jumped over the cliff after you. It was a stupid thing for him to do because both of you could have been killed by the rocks.” The nurse shook her head in disbelief. “You have been in a coma for three days Victoria. We didn’t know how long you were gonna sleep. Somebody up there must really like you.”

         Victoria couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “I’ve been in a comma for three days!”

         “Yes. And your husband has been by your bed the whole time, crying and praying. He must really love you. We had to send him home a few times for his own health.” The nurse left after giving her an injection and Victoria fell asleep again.

         When she woke up, things were a lot more vivid and she replayed the previous days happenings in her mind. The vanity of life. It was amazing how short life was. To live in anger was a waste of time and a precarious way of living. If she had died-. She paused. If she had died then she would have died a bitter and angry woman. The thought gave her little comfort.

         “Nurse!” she called and the nurse came running. “Where’s my husband?”

         “She’s outside the door. You want me to get him?”

         Victoria nodded.

         A few seconds later, a rugged and unshaven Matt walked in and the two stared at each other awkwardly. Matt moved the chair closer to the bed and sat down.

         “How are you feeling?” Matt asked in a scared tone.

         “Like a broken car.” Victoria tried to smile and Matt smiled back, happy to see that she was trying. The machine in the room beeped, a gurney squeaked in the corridors. Conversation was hard in coming.

         “You shouldn’t have risked your life Matt. You could have been killed.” Her tone was accusing and he flinched, not knowing what to say.

“Thanks for saving my life Matt,” Victoria added as she shot him a look of appreciation.

         “I would do anything for you honey,” Matt said in his most earnest voice. She wanted badly to believe him, but the pain of his infidelity was still ripe in her heart.

         He reached out for her hand but she pulled it away and looked the other way. He sat tensed in his chair and could almost hear her thinking, the wheels in her brain turning and clanking.

         “Matt,” she finally said as she turned and stared at the ceiling. “I’m going to try and love you again. Life is too short to be angry. But-” She raised a hand before he could speak. “But we have to start from scratch. You move out of the bedroom.”

         “Anything honey, anything!” He reached for her hand again and this time she didn’t withdraw it. He kissed it a million times and then some. “Anything honey. When I saw you going over the cliff, I … I didn’t hesitate to jump. I didn’t think that I could get killed. All my thoughts were on you … my wife, my life. What is life without you beside me? I will jump anywhere for you honey.”

         She knew that he loved her. She knew that he had slipped. She wished that he hadn’t but she also knew that life and marriage were never perfect. Shakespeare had been right: the coarse of love never did run smooth.

        

 



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