Updated: Mar 16
*Some parts of this story and names have been changed to protect those being written about
It started with my mother.
She’s the one that taught me some boundaries don’t exist. That those same boundaries are meant to be broken and crossed. No matter how much you vow that you’ll never to the same thing, despite her, people change.
Our views. Our values. Our beliefs.
I apparently have changed.
I can’t say how old I was when my mother had her first affair. I always thought that that privilege fell to our next-door neighbor, Ron (who I did remember), but much later in life my dad told me about the mystery man in Santa Fe. That he had caught mom trying to hide a tape recorder from him the day before her trip.
That was his first red flag.
It became his mission, while she was away, to find where she hid it. Humans are curious by nature. For you it might be searching through your partners cellphone or noticing the slight differences in their actions. Each of us has that one thing that starts making us question. What is happening behind our backs?
Instead, what he found was my mother’s lingerie drawer completely empty. When she returned from her trip every item was back right where it belonged. Why would she need that in the first place? Any explanation I could offer you would be speculation.
As for the recorder, dad still has no idea what was on it.
Ron, the next-door neighbor, who was married and did have kids, much like my mother, was the last one. The affair that neither of them could hide and cover up. An affair that sunk two marriages and ruined four children’s lives.
I was about five or six when my dad filed for divorce from my mother. I don’t blame him for wanting out, I suppose if I found my significant other cheating on me that I would want out too. At least that’s what I told myself.
Now not to completely discredit my mother, because I do love her—regardless of the mistakes she has made—as we know there is always two sides to every story.
My dad’s: “your mother was a serial cheater.”
My mom’s: “I never cheated.”
Two very different stories, but only one honest answer.
My mother spent the better half of her marriage having affairs.
Once my parents divorced, I watched men come in and out of my mom’s life like our house had a revolving door.
I remember a total of four. The four that managed to make it past a week.
There was Marv the eye doctor. He lived in a nice house next to the Cherry Creek reservoir. His house had naked lady paintings on multiple walls and a pool table in the foyer. They stayed together, on and off, for a couple years. He ended up marrying some woman who wasn’t my mother. Figures.
Next was Jack. Mom met him at a local bar called Patrick’s. She’d take me there some nights. I’d play a bowling arcade game, snack on some fries, and enjoy a coke. The guy had a thing for trains, which I thought was a weird hobby for an adult man. That didn’t last long though. He stopped talking to mom shortly after my dad showed up at the bar one night, with my aunt in tow, demanding mom to give me to him. That’s a whole other story though.
After was Harold. He had silver hair and wore these black rimmed glasses. Harold worked as maintenance man for a set of apartment complexes. That’s all I really remember about him. I just know that mom always had him at our house fixing things that were broken.
Then the pizza boy. This was by far my mom’s most outlandish relationship. He was a whopping twenty years younger than her and looked like a magazine model. I can’t say much about him other than his family’s business made a great pizza, which he brought over every time he came to see her. The reason mom broke up with him was because he wanted to have kids…understandable seeing as he was in his thirties, but my mom already had one and there was no way she was having more, especially not in her late forties.
My mom taught me that the more men you had, the more wanted you were. The more value you held. It’s fucked up that anyone should feel their value as a person is tied to another, because it most certainly is not. But it’s been years and I still haven’t been able to apply that advice to my own life—that I don’t need anyone, let alone a man, to feel validated.
I search for validity every day. Most recently from the man for whom this story belongs to, but there’s more you need to understand before we even beginning to dive into what he’s done to me and vice versa.
I stand by my earlier statement. That the reason I’m in my current predicament stems from learning it was okay from my mother when I was younger. She was the ember that allowed my metaphorical fire to be lit.
We think that the answer is so easy. That if put in the situation, 1.) we’d never cheat in the first place out of respect for our partners and our potential lovers’ partner (if they have one) and 2.) getting cheated on is unacceptable and unforgivable and will require a fast breakup.
Then we find ourselves in situations where we must make those choices. And instead of it being black and white, like we clearly thought it would be, there’s this part of us that can’t help finding the gray.
Kenneth Martin was my first lesson in finding reasons to make it work when things should’ve been severed quickly and cleanly.
I met Kenneth when I was sixteen and he was nineteen.
The age difference was already a red flag, but to teenage me it was simply a boy showering me with attention, something I hadn’t gotten from anyone my age. You see I was the designated ‘fat’ girl throughout most of junior and high school. How do I know this? Well because the kids in school told me I was, and I believed them.
This is something that I would come to hear my whole life and it would be that tiny voice in the back of my head that clouded all my decisions.
I wanted to be, not the skinny girl, but at least a pretty girl.
Kenneth managed to make me feel that way for a short time. That is until I stopped being the only object of his affection.
There was Hailey, who we both worked with. She was my age and his ex-girlfriend. Around work she was known as ‘up the butt Hailey’ because she only ever let boys have anal with her. The rumor was she had wanted to stay a virgin. While I don’t discredit her thinking, I do find it a little outlandish. I do now and I did then too.
Next had been Natalie. I have no evidence to back up this claim, even back then it was only hearsay. But as I reminisce on everything I went through with Kenneth; I don’t put it past him. I wondered why the bastard couldn’t find someone to fool around with other than girls we worked with.
That’s the one thing Kenneth never felt the need to do, be sneaky or hide anything.
There had been many others. Honestly too many to count. Once I found myself questioning if my own mother fell into that group. When I was much older and past the heartbreak of him, I outright asked her. She admittedly denies ever being involved with him, and while I want to believe her, I don’t think I’ve ever have. I mean let us not rehash the evidence to why I feel so strongly about that.
Kenneth and I were the posterboard couple for toxic relationships.
Games. Jealously. Cheating. Resentment. Abuse.
Everything about it was wrong, and yet I couldn’t let him go. Losing him meant proving everyone right. That there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t skinny enough, pretty enough, sexy enough, interesting enough…
What was wrong with me that he was finding it elsewhere?
I’d suffer through a bruise, through him not coming home until the middle of the night, to finding other girls panties in his possession, to letting him have an open relationship, if it meant I didn’t lose him. That at the end of the day, he was mine.
Until the day he stopped being mine and someone else’s.
Her name was Jenny, and she came at the most inopportune time.
I was seventeen when I told Kenneth I was pregnant.
It had been a spring day, the flowers were blooming, the birds chirping, the sun shining and children playing. Kenneth was eerily quiet, and I feared what he was thinking.
Me, I was scared shitless.
Scared to be a mother, scared about what my parents would think, scared about how Kenneth would take the news.
How did I want him to take it? Did I want him to stick around and raise this child with me or did silently pray that he’d ask me to get rid of it.
I don’t think even if he had, I would’ve. I had been raised in Catholic schools since 1st grade. I figured God was already punishing me for having premarital sex, there was absolutely no way I was having an abortion and ending up in hell.
Catholic schools teach you a lot of things, but they also shield you from some very real parts of this world and what to do when you find yourself at the center of one.
Shockingly he told me that he wanted the baby and how he couldn’t wait to be a father.
I don’t know why this made me happy. We’d had already been through so much at this point, none of it good. I guess I thought having his kid would change things, change him.
Four months into my pregnancy he was telling me that I was on my own and that he was in love with his childhood best friend, Jenny.
I’ve never had my heart broken like I did in that moment.
What was I to do? I was about five months pregnant, beginning to show, and finding it harder to hide if from my parents. I was running out of options and I had just lost the man who told me he would be with me through it all.
Thankfully I wouldn’t have to figure out the details. One distracted moment, a totaled car, and a miscarriage later things became much easier for me.
I believe, in a way, that my unborn child and I were saved that day. I was finally free of everything Kenneth and she would never have to worry about growing up without parents who knew nothing about having a baby or even what it meant to unconditionally love.
I would’ve fucked her up like my mother fucked me up.
I would’ve taught her how to do everything wrong like I continue to do to this day.
How would she have felt to know her mom is a whore? A slut? An adulterer?
Freshman year of college I went to a fraternity party, got drunk, and then raped.
I talk about it brazenly now because I have since somewhat healed from that traumatic event. Of course, there will be moments where I find myself slipping back into time. Where the wrong touch, or smell, or sound will send me back to that dark musty room with those boys. A place where I had every ounce of my being ripped away and used for amusement.
I have not put it behind me completely and I doubt that I ever will. Being brutally assaulted made me question everything I knew about myself and it continued to screw with my mind for the rest of my college career. Here I sit eight years later, and I’m still plagued by it.
For a long time, I couldn’t stand having someone touch me. Nor could I fathom the idea of being intimate with anyone. As a shield to protect myself I put on fifteen pounds. My hope was that if I was ugly and fat no one would want me. And it worked, that is until I met Lincoln Erikson.
Lincoln was the man who taught me I could have anything I wanted simply by being me. That I could change a whole man’s destiny, his plan, simply by being open to the possibility of him.
I met Lincoln at a bar on St. Patrick’s Day my junior year of college. That night was not meant to be anything more than fun. I didn’t want a relationship or a hookup or anything that involved being physical with another person. But sometimes we don’t get to pick how things unfold.
Two days later I was on my first date with him.
It had been at an ice cream place. I’m lactose intolerant and he knew that. That should’ve been, maybe not a red flag, but definitely a deterrent; he couldn’t even get the first date right. But I felt somewhat obligated to humor his intentions, seeing as he had gone full stalker mode to find me after one night of drunk partying.
That first date I was informed that our seeing each other had to be secret. That neither of our friend groups could know. I felt ashamed but didn’t push the matter. As I told you I didn’t really want much from him, so I went along with it.
Turns out that Lincoln had plans to move back to his hometown, Fort Wayne, Indiana. But that’s not the reason things had to stay under wraps. No, we weren’t allowed to say anything because he had plans on going back to be with his on-off girlfriend and if anyone caught on that he was seeing another girl well…
I have managed to be the other girl in every relationship I’ve had throughout my lifetime. With Kenneth, Lincoln, and even for the man who’s inspired this story.
I’m not sure what that says about me. That I’m wanted, but never in fully committed kind of way? That I’m fine with always being second best, as long as I’m something to begin with? That I have a fascination with turning the eyes of men I cannot have? All the above?
I was the other woman to Lincoln for about two or three weeks, before things changed. I’m not sure what I did in such a short time to persuade him to give everything up, but before I knew it, he was telling me his moving plans were off and he was staying in Tucson.
I had begged him not to make such a drastic decision for me. That I had no idea if this was a long-term thing and that I couldn’t promise him anything in return.
My honesty did not dissuade him.
We ended up dating for about 8 months. During that entire time, we were never once intimate with each other. There was no passionate kissing or nights evolving hours of steamy sex. Up to this point it had been a platonic relationship, but neither of us seemed to mind that arrangement.
In August, of that same year, he took me to his hometown. I hadn’t wanted to go, but after finding out he bought a non-refundable six-hundred-dollar ticket, I found myself aboard an American Airlines flight.
I had already considered that Lincoln and I were drifting apart. I believe he thought his family could fix that. He bet on the wrong horse. Because it was meeting his family that turned me off from whole thing. I’d realized he was not what I wanted. And when his aunt mentioned marriage and babies, I bolted. Not actually, but at that point I was officially checked out.
I didn’t end up breaking up with him until Thanksgiving Day that year. Some small part of me didn’t want to let him go, the security of having someone mattered more to me than staying in a loveless relationship. I’ve always felt that way…someone is better than no one.
To summarize: I am heartless and make questionable decisions.
Lincoln was the guy who could’ve given me a life, a future.
Sometimes I feel bad for what I did to him, leading him on for as long as I did. That I gave him hope when I had an understanding from day one that he was not my forever. I hurt him. He admitted I did when I finally broke things off.
But if I hadn’t of let him go, we’d be married right now, living the midwestern dream, while I fooled around behind his back. So, in a sense I did the best possible thing I could’ve for him.
For a while this lifestyle fit me. That is until I met Cole. Cole will forever be that man who fucked me up beyond recognition and I’ll be the person who allowed him to.
So, what happens when you become the object of one’s affection? And that one already has a one? He’s been married for ten years and has three children with his wife.
The answer should be simple. You WALK away. This is one of those boundaries you don’t cross, right?
I’ve crossed the line.
Everything leading up to this moment has programmed me to be complicit in both his and I’s actions. From my mother’s own infidelity, to watching her lure men in, use them, and then let them go; to Kenneth’s break down of everything good and wholesome in me; to struggling to find myself after a sexual assault left me broken beyond repair; to Lincoln’s quick decision to walk away from his plans for me after two weeks of dating. Every one of those things has led me to this path, to this person, to everything he gives me and can’t give me.
This, us, it’s wrong. I know that. He knows that. Shit, you know that.
But I refuse to let it go quite yet.
I used to judge my mom, but now I understand her—in some sick twisted sense.
You think the answer would be easy if you found yourself in my position (and to some of you it still may be) but there will be a few of you who understand me like I now understand a part of my mom.
Sometimes its easier to do the wrong thing than it is to do the right.
When I met Cole, my very first thought of him was he’s such a ‘nice guy’, almost too nice. You see I’ve been conditioned to think that anyone overly nice has something wrong with them. That they must have an endgame for which they need the pleasantries. One might speculate that he was being nice simply to seduce me. Having heard his side of things, I do not believe that to be the case.
He is just a nice guy.
Now I bet you’re saying, ‘but him cheating on his wife is the opposite of a nice guy…and true…but I don’t judge him for that. I judge myself—for being the one to entertain the idea given everything I have seen and experienced with unfaithfulness.
However, Cole, like the others before him, has simply found his way into that very broken part of me, the one that tells me it’s okay to do inappropriate things, like fuck around with a married man, just because it makes me feel wanted.
Cole is gentle, calming, reassuring, and above all else, desirable.
He’s become a safe space for me, much like I’ve become a safe space for him.
That’s where this started: a safe space extended between two friendly people with the expectation of it being nothing more than that. It’s since spiraled out of control.
He’s that thing I think about when I drift off to sleep, when I wake up in the morning, and throughout the mundane tasks of daily life. He has wrecked everything I spent the last couple of years building up to protect myself. A sledgehammer demolishing all my morals, values, beliefs.
I don’t even know who I am anymore.
Before we got to this point, I was involved in a much different scandal; way less scandalous than the one I find myself currently in. A few ‘inappropriate’ pictures being spread around. Nothing I couldn’t come back from…thank god.
I’m pretty sure this affair with him would not be so easily brushed under the rug if it ever came to light. What can I say? Half of the fun is in the risk.
At first, I simply wanted to know if he had seen said pictures. I was curious.
He has since admitted that he’s never seen them, “out of respect for me.” Not that he didn’t want to but couldn’t bring himself to.
Once he said that it was like an open invitation for everything that came next. It was in that moment that I lost every ounce of respect I had for myself and gave it to the temptation that was HIM.
I was finding reasons for us to see each other. I was making excuses to talk to him. Each time the flirtation rising and rising until it exploded.
I remember being nervous.
Regardless of what you think of me, I’m a person and none of this came easy to me. In the back of my head, I always had those darkening thoughts, the ones that told me this was wrong and that one of us was going to get hurt. That this is a dangerous game and there’s going to be a loser.
Ironically, I’m the loser, but I’ll get to that.
It started with a touch of a hand. His callouses rough against my skin. I wanted to pull back but instead I let him pull me closer. My heart felt like it belonged in a hummingbird. At this point I had told myself nothing was going to happen, because men didn’t want me in a sexual way. Situations like this only happened in lifetime movies and smut books. The older more refined married man hooking up with the young woman at work doesn’t happen in real life—and if it does, it doesn’t happen to women like me.
The closer he got the more disoriented I become. His beard was scratchy, his lips slightly cracked, and he tasted like coffee and spearmint gum. I could’ve kissed him for hours. And with every brush of our lips the less I held onto my reservations.
We spent the next two days finding ways to run into each other. There wasn’t a time of the day that we didn’t want to engage. Whether he was popping by to see me or emailing me throughout the day to tell me how much he wanted to be with me. There wasn’t a second where I doubted where I belonged or if this was right.
I wanted him and he wanted me.
The second day I found myself in an abandoned room with Cole. He threw me on the desk, pulled my panties to the side, whispered into my ear “is this too much”, I moaned no, and he stuck his fingers inside of me.
Later, that same day, we replayed earlier. For once I lost myself in the passion of it. I forgot about thickness of my thighs, the chunkiness of my love handles, the droopiness of my breasts. None of it mattered with Cole. The more he pleased me the less it became a forethought in my mind.
For once I felt desirable…
That I didn’t have to hide my flaws…
That I was beautiful…
I found myself coming to see him on a Saturday. We never get weekends together, at least not in person. Sometimes if I’m lucky I’ll get an email or a text. But we have an understanding that weekends are strictly for his family.
My heart was pumping out of my chest. I was nervous, but I wanted to see him. Not only was it a day that normally wasn’t mine to take, but it was also that he wanted to see me on a day that wasn’t truly his to give.
I’d went out of my way to wear a matching black bra and panties, with a cute black dress. The clouds were out, the wind was howling, but still I wore something I considered to be sexy and convenient. Everything about this encounter was a terrible idea. Fuck, everything about him was a terrible idea, but we always learn pain the hard way.
And I’m a glutton for it.
It started with kissing. God how I loved to feel his lips on mine, as if they belonged there. Each of us grasping for more of the other. Everything about him was animalistic and primal when it came to me. He removed my panties and shoved them into his pocket. He sat me on the table where he proceeded to fall to his knees and began eating me out. It felt right to have his face between my legs.
The lights were on, the blinds open, but I did not hide myself.
I was his for the taking and he was being greedy.
I caught a drawing that one of his kids drew for him and it took everything in me not to throw up with disgust of myself. Pictures of his family stared back at me and I pushed them out of my head as I let him find my release. I clenched his fingers, his breath hot and heavy against my ear, I laid myself out further on the table and let myself go.
I wish I never gave him that satisfaction.
I wish I’d never fallen this deep into his bubble in the first place.
Maybe if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be this broken.
Once again, I have let a man control what’s not his to own.
Things come crashing down quickly and devastatingly. You can prepare yourself for the inevitable, because you knew from the beginning that it could never be anything more, but the pain you go through after is unlike anything you expected.
One day they are messaging you how they wish they could stay late you with, how they wish they could be with you, and next it’s silence. Hours upon hours of not hearing from them. You knew this day would come, but you didn’t plan for it to happen this soon. Only about two weeks into things before it starts crumbling down around you. Now you’re stuck with him for another seven weeks and every day you hate him, and you hate yourself even more.
All the promises they made are like melting ice cubes. Every sweet thing they ever said to you are now just meaningless words in a sentence.
Seeing them makes you want to cry and not hearing from them makes you bitter. Your feelings are on a never-ending roller-coaster ride.
And you start to wonder…what was wrong with me that I couldn’t keep them?
What happened in those days leading up to this moment that changed everything?
I know it’s not because he has a sick kid at home and that he needs to “get his life back together.” No, that’s a bullshit excuse. Something he’s using to deflect the real reason. His wife found out? He feels guilty for doing it in the first place? I’m not worth it? Fuck if I know, but there’s something more to it than simply not feeling well—especially given how things started verse how they are going now.
He doesn’t look at me the same way. He doesn’t talk to me in the same way. He doesn’t touch me or steal glances anymore. I’m no longer the object of his affection. His desire is gone and I’m not sure how I lost it in the first place.
I’m forced to show up every day and wonder where it went wrong?
My mom never prepared me for the pain I’d feel in being rejected. And although I tried to prepare myself for when this came crashing down, I failed.
Cole has shattered me, and it only took 14 days.
Truthfully, I have only myself to blame for this depressed state.
When will I learn—
Kay Fox is a recent graduate from the Mile High MFA program at Regis University in Denver. She earned her BA in Creative Writing and English at the University of Arizona. She is the author of three published short stories: Finding a Voice Through Tragedy; Inner Thoughts, Displayed Actions; and A Piece of the Aftermath. In her free time she enjoys traveling and spending time with her fur friends, Shiloh, Dottie, Sissy, and Izzie.