“I’m getting the girls,” I tell them and then walk out with my head held high but my shoulders slumped. Defeated is a word that you use so many times not really understanding what can actually defeat you. I know now, my husband dying, him cheating on me, my kids without a father, my dreams of growing old with him gone. Beaten straight down to my core, straight down to my bones.
I walk over to them as they look up. “Let’s go, girls,” I tell them as they both get up and walk to me. Lizzie takes one hand, Daisy takes the other, and we walk back into the room that holds a piece of our hearts. The room where their father lies, with no answers and no tomorrow.
We stand in that room for four hours while people come up to me and give me their condolences. I nod my head and play the part of the grieving wife. I am the grieving wife, but I’m also the wife whose husband didn’t love her enough to just be with her. The wife who knew her husband was slipping away but couldn’t catch it in time. The wife he said he would love and protect. The wife who stands here between his girls wishing that for one second he suffered horribly. The wife who has to pick up the fucking pieces and lie to her girls about what a great guy he was. The wife who, at the end of the day, just wasn’t good enough.
We listen as people tell us how amazing he was, how much he loved his family, and how much he loved his girls. The whole time, I’m yelling on the inside, ready to stand in the middle of the room, throw my head back, and yell at the top of my lungs. But I don’t do what I want. I don’t tell them what a fraud my husband was. I don’t tell them that it was almost all lies. I don’t tell them that the day he died, they called his other wife and not me. I don’t tell them that I wasn’t the one with him when he died.
I stand here thinking about this other person—his other wife—and wonder how she would handle this. How she would be with my in-laws. Would she just let them control her and do everything for her? Would she want it to be open and weep for him beside the casket instead of standing next to it?
I look around the room at all the people who came to pay their respects, and my eyes find someone I’ve never met before. Someone I’ve never seen before, and our eyes connect. His green eyes stare into mine as I watch him nod to me and turn to walk out. As he walks out of the crowded room, I strain my neck to watch his back. I don’t have long to think because Elliot comes up and whispers, “It’s time.”
I walk out of the funeral home with my head down. I make sure not to make eye contact with anyone in case I actually know them. Coming here today was something I know I shouldn’t have done, but I did it anyway.
Three days ago, I had to sit my sister down on the couch and tell her that her husband really wasn’t her husband. That he had another family. I had to do the dirty work of a coward. I had to take the brunt of her hatred when his two brothers showed up on her doorstep to claim his body. I had to be there while she slowly died right in front of me. And then if that wasn’t enough, the fucking cease and desist letter along with the restraining order were served. I wanted to get into my car that minute and find his family, but the last thing my family needed was for me to end up behind bars. So I stood in the corner and developed a plan.
Then I left quietly in the middle of the night, just as the sun was rising, and made my way toward the place where my brother-in-law would be.
I walked into the room, looking around. My eyes landed on the woman I assumed was his wife. I took in her blond ponytail and no makeup on her face. Her brown eyes, red and puffy from the tears that she kept wiping away. Two beautiful little girls stood beside her, and I was okay till she looked my way. When her eyes settled on mine, I saw the anguish she was going through, I saw the pain of losing her husband, and I saw the pain of having to be there, but I also saw something else, something I didn’t expect to see. After watching long enough, I saw the anger, and as more and more people approached her, the more her eyes changed from sadness to all-out anger. I looked in her eyes for one second and then left. I couldn’t take it; I couldn’t breathe. The tie around my neck got tighter and tighter. I pushed out through the door, loosening the tie, then unbuttoned the first button. I opened my door and got in, finally breathing normally for the first time since I walked into that room. The video montage of Eric played on the wall with all the memories from when he was born till he died. Nothing, not one thing would make you think he was a lying piece of shit. Not one mention of the other woman he left behind. Nothing about the woman who has to be carried up to her bed every single night, the one who cries in her sleep, and the one who wakes up every single day with one question on her lips—why?