From the time I was young, my father loved telling me that marrying late isn’t an issue, of importance is that you marry the right person. Being the only parent that was around to raise us I took that advice very seriously. My mother left one morning and never looked back. Although my father seemed strong, I could always hear him crying at night, but he never once told us what happened between them. Instead, he took up the sole responsibility of raising me and my brothers.
Years went by and I finally met my perfect match. We were at a graduation party for one of my friends and he was the photographer. Unlike normal photographers who would take constant photos throughout an event, Richard paid close attention to the timeless moments.
When I got to the event, people were taking photos with Mariah in front of the backdrop. I usually get camera-shy, so I opted to wait for everyone to be done to make it easier for me to pose. When it was finally my turn, Richard noticed that I was nervous, so he opted to take the photo at the end of the event.
“Okay no worries,” Mariah said, and Richard left.
“He’s cute, isn’t he?” She continued the moment he was out of sight.
“Yeah, he is,” I replied trying my best to avoid blushing.
“I bet he has his eyes on you. You should go talk to him,” She said.
“Why would he even go for a woman like me?” I asked.
“Why wouldn’t he go for a woman like you? You’re drop-dead gorgeous not to mention kind, smart and you smell like vanilla every day,” She replied.
“Gosh stop,” I said with a smile.
If there is one thing that I usually struggle with is accepting compliments especially Mariah’s because she says them so casually.
The event started a couple of minutes later and unlike other graduation parties I had been to, this one was worth every minute. It was a mixture of laughter, tears and so much love. At the end of the event, I was on my way to leave when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I usually hate when random people touch me, but I felt so at ease at his touch.
“Hey, I think you forgot about the photo,” He said with a smile.
Up close he was even more attractive.
“Oh yes, the photo,” I replied.
“Yeah, I kind of need everyone’s photo with Mariah,” He said.
“Sure, no worries,” I replied.
He smiled before leaving to bring Mariah to where the backdrop was. We stood side by side and after a few clicks of the camera, he looked up with a serious expression.
“Is everything okay?” Mariah asked.
“Yeah, I just feel like something is missing,” He said as he approached me.
“What?” I asked in a shy tone.
He walked up to me and whispered into my ear, “A drop-dead gorgeous woman should always smile especially if she has dimples.”
Then, immediately, he moved back and before taking another photo he winked at me. I tried my best to avoid blushing but the whole moment just seemed so surreal.
“Perfect,” He replied.
Given his effect on me I avoided eye contact with him and slowly turned to leave. Two weeks later Mariah sent a link to all the graduation photos. As I scrolled down trying to find our photo, I realized that he included a photo he had taken when Mariah complimented me. Both Mariah and I were smiling, and you could see my dimples. At that moment I knew that I wanted to get to know him, so I asked for his number from Mariah.
Making a move on a guy seemed desperate but there was something about him that made me go for it anyway. I started the conversation by asking for the photo he took of us after the event. From there, we built a friendship first because somehow Richard didn’t want to rush things. I found it so admirable that he believed that the best of friends easily become the best lovers.
Two years later, we finally got married. After countless days of spending time together, going on dates, playing video games and learning about each other. By the time I said, “I do,” Richard was everything I wanted and more. I believed that nothing or nobody could tear down our marriage, especially since we were considered a good couple. Richard and I had grown more in love as the years went by and before we knew it, we had been married for six years.
During our sixth anniversary, we had planned to go for a staycation. However, one of Richard’s friends from college invited him to his wedding. I didn’t mind because weddings always made me happy. Plus, his mom was still willing to babysit the kids, so it was a win anyway.
On the day of the wedding, I got to meet some of Richard’s college friends. He felt off about leaving me to say hi to people, so he walked around with me. One thing I loved about Richard was how he always took pride in introducing me as his wife. At some point when he was talking to some people, he turned abruptly, which startled me.
“Don’t tell me you still remember that perfume,” One of his friends said.
“What? “No of course not,” Richard replied quickly before turning back.
Just then someone approached us from behind and tapped on his shoulder.
“Hi Richard,” The lady said as he turned to look at her.
Richard didn’t respond. Instead, he stared at her like he had never seen a woman before.
“You look so stunning,” He said a few minutes later and it took everyone around us by surprise.
“Thank you,” The woman responded.
I stood there waiting for Richard to introduce me so the woman could stop trying to undress him with her eyes.
“This is Linet, Richard’s wife,” One of his friends said to kill the awkward silence between all of us.
“I see,” She replied with a fake smile.
“I think Richard and I will head home. I’m feeling a bit lightheaded,” I lied.
Richard nodded but avoided looking at me as we walked towards the car. Given what had happened, his friends didn’t even say a proper goodbye. Instead, they kept sipping their drinks silently. I turned around to get a look at the woman again and noticed that she was still admiring my husband.
During the car ride home, I decided not to bring it up to avoid drama. By the time we got home, Richard didn’t attempt to say anything since he knew he would have to explain who the woman was. The following morning, Richard went for a run which took longer than usual. He had this habit of always stopping by Java to pick up coffee or a smoothie after his run. However, on this particular day, he spent close to three hours outside which was odd.
I picked up my phone to call him and he assured me that all was well, and he would be home in no time. I used to think that cheating usually starts when a partner is unfaithful. However, with Richard, I realized that it starts with small lies. Every time Richard is at Java, he always brings me a Cappuccino since he knows how much I love coffee. This time though he came home empty-handed. During the course of the day, while I was doing his laundry, I found a receipt from Java, and he had picked up a large Cappuccino.
In all our years of marriage, I had never once doubted Richard’s love for me but after finding that receipt, I could tell something was off. In the weeks that followed Richard started behaving weirdly, he would leave the house for a jog and come back late. On weekdays, he would leave work late and get home way later.
“Is everything okay with you?” I asked him one day before heading to bed.
“Yes, why?” He asked.
“These days you spend so much time outside than at home,” I said.
“So now you are regulating my time outside like I’m a kid?” He asked.
“Excuse you? Have you forgotten that you’re a father?” I asked.
“I have so much work to do tomorrow, I don’t have time for this drama,” He replied before switching off the lights and going to sleep.
I sat on the bed for an hour trying to wrap my head around what he had just said to me. Eventually, I slept with so much on my mind. The following morning, I woke up to find that Richard had gone. His behaviour became worse as the days went by. I didn’t want to accuse him of anything until I got proof, so I let things slide. As the weekend approached, our youngest daughter Katie got sick. Due to her weak immune system, anytime she fell sick we would always rush her to the hospital.
I tried to call Richard to meet me at the hospital, but he didn’t pick up my call. So, I decided to take her myself. It was a rainy night and one thing I hated was driving at night especially when it was raining but I didn’t have a choice. The whole time while I was driving all I could think about was how Richard was probably out there sleeping with that woman. The more I kept thinking about him the less I concentrated on the road and the next thing I remember was waking up in a hospital bed.
“Katie!” I said as I struggled to sit up.
“She’s being treated by Dr Maina. Luckily, she has a few minor bruises,” My dad said as he helped me to lie down.
I knew that the next thing my dad would ask me was where Richard was during this whole ordeal. However, he didn’t say anything about him. A short while later Mariah came rushing into my hospital room.
“I’ll go see how Katie is doing,” He said before leaving the room.
“I don’t know how my marriage ended up being like this,” I said to her.
“It’s Naomi, isn’t it?” She asked with a sigh.
“Who is she and why does she have such a strong hold on Richard?” I asked her.
“When I first started following Richard on Instagram, she was one of his top models. They grew close slowly and with time he ended up becoming obsessed with her. Naomi emotionally manipulated him for close to a year and it took so much for him to leave her,” She said.
“But what does she have that I don’t?” I asked trying to hold back my tears.
“I think you should get some rest,” Mariah said.
Just then, Richard walked in. His shirt was wrinkled, and his hair was a mess. From where he was standing, I could smell it. The same perfume that Naomi wore that night we bumped into her.
“Katie is being examined by Dr Maina, you’ll find my dad there,” I said bluntly.
“I’m so sorry I wasn’t available when you called,” He said.
“Let me guess, you had work to do? Don’t bother lying to me, I know about Naomi, and you smell just like her,” I replied.
“I didn’t mean for all of this to happen. It just did and I didn’t know how to stop it,” He said.
“Go check on your daughter Richard,” I replied.
He walked out of the room and Mariah held my hand until I fell asleep. The following morning, I woke up to find everyone in my room. My dad, brothers and my other bundles of joy. Spending time with them helped me to forget about Richard for a while until he walked in with Katie. The only thought that kept me calm was that she was okay.
There’s a Korean word I learnt a while back called “Jung”. It refers to the connection between two people that can’t be severed even when love turns to hate. You still have those old feelings for them and will always have tenderness in your heart for them. I used to think that the bond between Richard and I could never be destroyed. But later I realized that he would always have a connection with Naomi. Deep down he still loved her despite how toxic their relationship was, which means that I would always be fighting for his attention.
A week after I left the hospital my dad came to visit me. He could tell that I had a lot on my mind, and I wasn’t ready to share what was going on in my marriage. So, instead of asking me what happened, he told me why my mother left all those years ago. He was also in a toxic marriage and as much as he tried so hard to protect us, he suffered for so many years. My mother was a narcissist and because he loved her, he decided to overlook all her manipulative traits until one day he realized that enough was enough.
Letting go of my mother was the hardest thing he ever had to do but it was necessary so we could grow up in a safe environment. He chose to tell me the story to affirm that letting go is hard, but your wounds slowly turn into scars. It’s easier to deal with scars than a wound that never heals. I knew that Richard would never be able to let go of Naomi, so it was easier to let him go instead. But he would always play a part in our children’s lives because, at the end of the day, he wasn’t the problem, just part of the problem.
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