Once Upon A Time

by Joyce Arthur

copyright October, 1994

September 25:  Looking back on it now, I don’t hate her at all.  She was as much a victim as I was.  When we met face to face, I saw the pain in her eyes, and I know she saw it in mine.  Who knows, maybe we can even learn to become friends, of a sort.  Misery loves company, after all.  She called me last week to see how I was doing.  I think she really cares and I felt touched.  God!  To think that for almost a year, we shared something so intimate and never even knew about each other.  I’ve read about that kind of thing in the papers, but I never thought it could happen to me.

August 8:  I’m leaving him.  I suppose I could bring charges against him, but he and Diane are going to try and work things out, so a criminal lawsuit would only get in the way of their reconciliation.  Instead, I settled for Rob’s car, his condo, and everything in it.  The easy part is we don’t have to get divorced.  The hard part will be trying to explain to my friends and family how I’ve been duped and betrayed by a man I badly misjudged.

July 31:  She flew out here yesterday to confront Rob.  It was an unexpected visit, and when I answered the door, I thought maybe she was selling something or that she was a Jehovah’s Witness.  But she wasn’t.  She stared at me for a long moment as if I had leprosy, and than announced, “I’m Diane Kent.” She emphasized our last name as though to assert her rightful claim to it.  I told her my first name but didn’t bother with a last name—I don’t feel comfortable using a name that’s no longer mine and never was.  I opened the door wide and let her come in.  Rob was out.  That’s how we ended up talking for awhile, just the two of us.  We talked about Rob and our lives with him and how it all happened.  It became clear that we both loved him, but that she needed him more, what with a child to look after.

Somehow, we both got past our pain, for a little while at least.  She looked at me with a wan smile and said, “You’re a nice person.  I was hoping you wouldn’t be—I thought it would be easier if I didn’t like you.”  I laughed and then we both laughed.  I told her she was pretty nice herself.

July 27:  There is another woman.  God, is there ever.  I came home from my night school class yesterday and Rob was on the phone in the bedroom.  He obviously didn’t hear me come in, because when I approached the closed bedroom door, I heard him say, “Diane, I love you.  You’re my first wife and you’ll be my only wife.  I made a big mistake but I’m willing to fix it.  I’ll divorce her.”  It felt like an icepick had lodged itself in my heart.  I could hardly breathe.  Divorce!  He was talking about divorcing me!  And for who?  His first wife?  But Rob hadn’t been married before!  For a long, agonizing moment, my senses reeled—another lie, a colossal lie.  As I stood there, my whole body started to tremble, but then something unexpected began to happen.  My head cleared and I felt a strong surge of anger and determination take hold of me, momentarily overshadowing the pain of betrayal.  Everything was suddenly clear and sharp, like a jagged piece of broken glass.  My marriage was over, my happiness was gone, and Rob was a lying con artist and a first-class jerk.  I didn’t have to take this shit.

I reached for the doorknob and realized my fists were tightly clenched.  I had to concentrate for a moment to unclench one of them and twist the knob.  When I burst in the room, the door slammed hard against the wall and bounced back, hitting my shoulder.  Rob jumped up still holding the phone receiver, which he dropped in shock, then retrieved.  He hung up with a quick “I’ll call you back.”

I can’t go into all the ugly details of our fight; it’s too painful, too shattering.  Just thinking about it makes me start to cry all over again.  I want to just forget it.  Rob is married to Diane, the woman on the phone, the one who had called me two weeks ago.  He was commuting back and forth not only for his job, but to keep up two homes and two families.  He had been married to Diane for three years and they had a little son.  Shortly after his company started sending him out west to set up and supervise the new branch office, he met me at my neighbour’s party.  He had his own condo here and everything.  I never suspected his real home was in Toronto and he never told me.  How he thought he could get away with it, I’ll never know.

July 22:  I called the York Hotel today.  They never heard of my husband.  Why did Rob lie to me?  Could it be another woman?  I don’t want to think about it—it makes me feel sick inside, but I have to consider the possibility.  What else makes sense?  And the phone call!  That woman—was it her?  Maybe she was upset on the phone because she didn’t know Rob was married.  There’s a terrible coldness in my heart, but I have to go on and find the truth now.  I just hope to God I’m wrong.

July 21:  At breakfast, I asked Rob details about his trip.  We usually don’t talk much about his work, and he seemed surprised at my questions.  I told him I just wanted to help him—that maybe, if he confided his business problems to me, he would at least feel better.  I asked him about his hotel and how he spent his evenings in Toronto, but his answers were vague.  The York Hotel was “nice”.  Did it have a view? I asked.  He never looked out the window.  What did he do when he wasn’t with clients?  Not much—stayed in his room.  Etcetera, etcetera.  When I asked him about his lost sales, he became annoyed and said it wasn’t important; and that he didn’t want to talk about his trip anymore.  He got up from the table and left for work.  I spent the rest of the day with a knot of anxiety in my stomach.  It’s still there.

July 20:  Something’s up, but I’m not sure what.  I told Rob today about that weird phone call I got last week.  He said not to worry about it; it was probably nothing, but I saw the look of alarm on his face.  When I asked him why he seemed upset, he denied it and changed the subject.  I know him well enough to know he’s not telling me something—something important that I should know about.  There’s some bad news lurking around here and I’m going to find out what it is.

July 19:  Rob came home today.  He seemed glad to see me, but he was reserved and distant, not at all like before he left.  He wouldn’t talk to me about it—all he said was that he was tired and that his trip hadn’t gone so well.  Business was down, he said.  I tried to be sympathetic and cooked him his favourite dinner, but he barely touched it.  After dinner, he went to his study and closed the door.  It’s so depressing.  Why do things always have to change?

July 13:  I had a strange phone call today.  When I answered it, a woman said “Who is this?”  I thought she sounded rather rude, but I told her my name and asked who she was.  She uttered a kind of painful gasp, cried “Oh God!” and hung up.  It bothered me for the rest of the day.  It certainly wasn’t a normal reaction for a wrong number.  Was there something about my name or my identity that scared her?

July 5:  I never knew it was possible to be so happy.  On Saturday, Rob took me to the Prow for dinner and afterwards we danced till two in the morning at Richards on Richards.  It was like being a newlywed again; I felt special and sexy and so in love.  We spent Sunday morning (and part of the afternoon!) in bed.  This morning I still feel a warm glow all over, even though Rob left on an early morning flight to Toronto to call on his eastern clients.  Usually I manage quite well on my own during his absences, but this time I know I’m going to miss him a lot.  Sometimes I think our marriage is like a fairy tale romance—if I pinch myself, maybe I’ll wake up and find out it was all make-believe.