Soccer Mom Hooker

4222579I’d do anything to give my kids a better life!

From the first moment that I gazed into my baby daughter’s eyes I made a silent promise that she would never be deprived of any of the opportunities I’d missed out on. Years later, I made the same promise to her brother and sister.

My childhood was not what you’d call a horrible one. I had a roof over my head, food on the table, clothes to wear. I’m sure my parents loved me, but they didn’t cherish me. There is a difference. I never felt that they were interested in making sacrifices to help me get ahead in life. Mom and Dad were content to see me graduate from high school, take a menial job, and hopefully someday get married.

I had to sit on the sidelines and watch my classmates win awards for talent, beauty, and athletics. Oh, how I envied those girls who got to take piano and dance lessons. I dreamed of becoming a dancer, an actress, a famous writer. But to develop a talent, you need to be nurtured.

I wasn’t too bad at sports, but because my parents wouldn’t shell out the money for a park league team, I never had the opportunity to really show off my skills.

In short, if it cost money, I had to forget about it. So I did all that was expected of me: I finished high school, but I couldn’t go to college. My parents didn’t have the money for tuition, not even with me working to earn part of the expenses. With college out of the question, I did what so many other girls have done—I got a job.

I’d taken secretarial courses in high school and was able to land a position as a file clerk in a trucking company. It was there that I met Carson Brooks, one of the truckers.

Carson was about six years older than me and very good-looking. I was flattered that he wanted to date me. We went out together for eight months, and then he asked me to marry him. I said yes for two reasons; the first being that I wanted to get out of my parents’ house. The second was that I thought Carson was the best I could do, and he loved me.

Our combined income gave us a decent living, but he was gone a lot. I was always lonely. I was thrilled when I became pregnant. Having a baby would fill those lonely days. Carson was excited about the baby. He agreed that we needed a house instead of our small apartment. I knew exactly what I wanted, which was a home in Brookline Estates, the upper-class area of town.

I never considered the cost. Providing a lifestyle that would give my child the very best was my only consideration. Carson, however, felt differently. “Jessie, we can’t afford to move into Brookline Estates. The taxes alone are more than we pay in rent now.”

“Maybe so, but it’s worth it, considering the education our child will get. Think of the opportunities the baby will have.”

“Can’t we compromise a little and find a house in a good neighborhood that we can afford? I’m not asking you to move into a slum, but there are lots of nice neighborhoods that would serve our needs without crippling us with debt.”

“Sure, if you don’t care what sort of future your child has, I suppose we can compromise.” After that, I refused to speak to him for days. How could he be such a penny-pincher when it came to our child’s future?

After a week of the cold shoulder treatment, Carson caved. “Find a house in Brookline if you can get one that we can have financed. I’ll take on some extra runs to pay for it.”

I hugged him and made love to him passionately that night. The next day I started a serious hunt for our house. Carson was right about one thing: Financing wasn’t going to be easy. We couldn’t get into the four bedrooms, five bath homes with the swimming pools.

I’d almost given up hope when the realtor showed me a house that had just been put on the market. It was in desperate need of repair and quite old, but in the right zip code. Even in such dismal shape, it was twenty thousand dollars over budget, but it was the best buy I’d found.

Carson was a hard sell. “I’ll do most of the redecorating,” I said. “You’ll only have to do the heavy stuff that I can’t.”

“But it needs so much work, Jessie. It’ll take every spare minute I have just to make the place livable.”

“Yes, but once we have it fixed up, it’ll be a great investment. We’d be able to sell it for almost double what we’re paying.”

Eventually I pressured him into buying the house. Moving was no big deal because we didn’t have much to start with. On our second day in our new home, the next-door neighbors dropped by with a welcome gift. Darla and Hal DeRossa were definitely an upwardly mobile couple. She owned her own interior designer business and he was a CPA. I felt embarrassed having them see our tacky old furniture.

“What a marvelous piece,” Darla said, running her hand over the dining room table. “Where did you find it?”

“My grandmother gave it to me. She moved to a retirement community in Florida and didn’t need her furniture.”

The truth was, Grandmother moved in with her sister, who lived in a trailer in Florida. She told me I could have her old furniture if I’d haul it out.

After Darla and Hal left, Carson turned to me, completely disgusted. “Why did you lie about your grandmother to the DeRossas? It’s no shame not to have money.”

“Yes, it is. If you don’t have money, you’ll always be on the outside looking in while someone else gets all the prizes.”

“Jessie, anyone worth knowing won’t judge you on what you have. They’ll look at the kind of person you are inside.”

“Carson, we’re in a different world now. Appearances count for a lot. I know Darla thought the furniture was tacky, even if she did compliment Grandmother’s dining room suite. We’ve got to furnish our home with nicer things.”

How? There are only twenty-four hours in a day, and I can’t take on anymore trips. All my spare time is spent fixing this house up, so where will the money to buy the things you want come from?”

“I’m going back to work after the baby comes.”

“No way, Jessie. You agreed not to work until the baby was at least a year old.”

“That is so old-fashioned. Darla didn’t stop working because of her kids.” Darla and Hal mentioned that they had two children; one was five and the other was ten months.

“I don’t care what Darla does or doesn’t do. I want you at home with our baby.”

“Carson, I’m going back to work and that’s that.”

9044718By spring, the house was almost finished. April brought rain, flowers, and our beautiful little daughter. Kristal was more than I’d dreamed of. Her hair was dark, like Carson’s, and she had my green eyes and dimples. Going back to work and leaving her was the hardest thing I’d ever done, but we desperately needed the money.

I worked hard and saved as much of my earnings as possible so that Kristal could enter the baby beauty pageants when she was old enough. Darla’s daughter, Morgan, had won her first at two years old, and I was determined that Kristal would do the same.

Carson and I hadn’t planned to have another child right away, but sometimes you are taken by surprise. This time it was a boy, and we named him Lance. I could tell from the way he kicked that this little guy was destined to be a soccer player or on an NFL team.

Mom had helped with Kristal but wasn’t up to caring for a second child. When I told Darla about my problem with childcare, she suggested I hire a nanny to look after both children. Carson, as usual, complained about the cost, saying we could put the children in day care. I won that argument. Weren’t our children worth the expense of a nanny?

Two years later, Jennifer was born. After that I had my tubes tied. I loved children and so did Carson, but it is wrong to have more than you can provide for. Besides, I was already working overtime to cover Kristal’s pageants. She’d also started taking dance lessons and modeling. As beautiful as my little girl was, I knew that a talent agent would someday discover her and she’d be in commercials.

At six, Kristal won her first overall best of show. I’ve never been prouder in my life. The trophy was bigger than she was!

“We’re going to have to get serious about Kristal’s future,” I told Carson.

“Jessie, we spend every spare dime on her lessons and pageant fees as it is. How much more serious can we get?”

“She needs a modeling coach—a good one to guide her career.”

Career? Kristal’s only six. She’s a pretty little girl with a great personality, but frankly I think she’d be happier if you cut back on the pageants and just let her be a kid.”

“I’m not doing this for me. I’m going to see to it that my children have the opportunities they deserve, no matter what the sacrifice.”

“The hell you’re not doing it for you! Jessie, you spent six hours on the phone calling people to brag about Kristal winning the contest.”

“I want people to know how special she is, and how proud I am of her.”

“Have it your way.” He slammed out the door.

Kristal didn’t get the coach I wanted to hire because we couldn’t afford the woman. It broke my heart, but Kristal took the disappointment well. “Mom, it’s really okay,” she said. “I like Miss Wren at dance school better, anyway.”

Her understanding made me all the more determined. Kristal, Lance, and Jen would have the best that money could buy, no matter what Carson and I had to do to get it for them.

Just as I’d predicted, Lance was a born soccer player. Even at five he showed talent. When he joined a park league team at age eight, I signed on to carpool with other soccer moms. To fit all the kids into my car I traded the one I had in for a new SUV.

Carson was furious when he returned from a trip and saw it sitting in our driveway.

“I work for money, too,” I protested. “And if I need a car I shouldn’t have to wait until you have time to help me find one.”

“We can’t afford it,” he said.

“That’s what I’m putting on your tombstone, Carson. ‘We can’t afford it!’ ”

“At the rate things are going, with all the financial stress, it might be a good idea to go ahead and order that tombstone. You’re killing me, Jessie.”

We barely spoke to each other all weekend. There was a subject I wanted to bring up but didn’t dare. Jen was just the right age to start on the pageant circuit. I desperately wanted to enter her in the Beautiful Baby contest at the Civic Center. The entry fee was two hundred dollars, plus photos and awards.

Somehow, I would have to come up with the money without telling Carson. I’d recently changed jobs, taking one that paid more. My boss, John Rogers, sold medical equipment to doctors and retailers. I was his administrative assistant. I’ll admit it wasn’t my computer skills that landed me the job. John had an eye for blondes with big . . . dimples.

Not that we messed around or anything. John just liked to flirt. At least that was what I told myself when he’d make suggestive remarks. One of his major accounts was a plastic surgeon. The doctor, whom I’ll call Dr. Miller, mentioned to John that I had the kind of build that his patients paid big bucks to achieve.

When John told me what he’d said, I was flattered. After three children, I’d still kept my figure. John asked me to stay a little late that day, after the rest of the staff had gone. I didn’t usually do overtime, so this being a first-time request, I felt I couldn’t turn him down.

“Jessie, there’s something I want to talk to you about. You can say no and we’ll pretend we never had this conversation, but if you’re interested, then . . .well, we’ll see where it goes.”

“Just tell me. If I don’t like what you’ve got to say, I’ll let you know.”

“Bruce Miller has a thing for you.”

“Do you mean Dr. Miller?”

John smiled slightly. “Yeah, he’s going ape over you. Jessie, if you’re interested, he’d be very generous to us. He said he’d give me all of his business, and if he does, there’ll be a substantial bonus in it for you.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“Nothing. This is between you and Bruce. I’m only the messenger.”

“But I’m a married woman,” I said.

“Right. But I have to say . . . you don’t act like a happily married woman. And there’s nothing wrong with having lunch with Bruce. You could enjoy a nice meal and then make your decisions. Jessie, lots of women do it, and from what I’ve observed, you’d be justified. It’s obvious that your husband doesn’t appreciate you. I’ve seen the look on your face when other women get flowers for their birthday or Valentine’s and you don’t.”

That was true. Carson never sent me flowers. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last meaningful gift he’d given me. For my birthday he took me out to dinner at a cheap restaurant. John was right: It wouldn’t hurt to have lunch with Dr. Miller. Maybe he was just lonely and wanted someone to talk to.

I’ve always been able to justify my actions, and this time was no exception. I had lunch with Bruce Miller. Afterward, he took me to see his office. No one was there. We sat on his lush leather sofa and sipped cognac. Bruce put his arm around me and moved in for a slow, lingering kiss.

It was wrong, I know, but it felt so tender and good. Carson seldom kissed me like that anymore. Having a man really desire and appreciate me went to my head faster than the cognac.

“I have to get back to work,” I said.

“No, you don’t. I’ll call John and tell him you’re taking inventory for me.”

Bruce and I talked for a long time. I told him all about my children and my dreams for them. He understood; he felt the same way about his own kids. His wife was a lot like Carson, so we had that in common, too.

Soon we were making love on the sofa. Afterward I felt shame and guilt. How could I face my children? I’d cheated on their father. On the drive home I promised myself that I’d never see Bruce again.

The next day, a messenger arrived with a letter for me. It was a paid-in-full entry form from the Beautiful Baby people. I almost cried, I was so happy. She would get the opportunity I’d prayed for. I called to thank her silent benefactor, Dr. Bruce Miller.

Bruce kept his word and gave John all his business. I received a very nice bonus. Bruce and I saw each other a couple of times a week, and afterward there was always a token of his appreciation. I didn’t consider myself a prostitute for taking gifts and money from him. I just saw it as his way of showing me how much he cared for me.

Was I in love with him? I can’t honestly say. After awhile he stopped calling me. John said that Bruce’s wife was giving him hell about not spending more time at home, and Bruce was afraid she’d find out about the affair. In a way, I was relieved to have it end.

There was a downside, though, one that I felt immediately. The money Bruce had given me paid for the extras my children needed. I was able to get a good modeling coach for Kristal, and she’d improved her runway presentation a hundred times over. Jen was in the best dancing school in the city, and her fees were coming due soon. Lance needed to attend soccer camp to improve his game.

I told John about my problems. He had a solution ready at hand. Another of his customers had commented that he’d like to get to know me better. I agreed to lunch, like before, but this time the man wasn’t the gentleman that Bruce had been. He laid it on the line for me, that it was sex he was after. Conversation was something he avoided with women; if he was going to have to chat a lady up, he’d do it with his own wife.

This time I said I’d have to think about it. I did, too, and almost made up my mind to say no . . . when John told me how much the bonus would be. It was wrong; everything I did was wrong, but I felt obligated to do whatever I had to do. Carson certainly wasn’t taking an interest in helping the children excel.

Young-woman-standing-young-man-DVP4948830In a short time I’d gone from soccer mom to corporate hooker, sleeping with my boss’ customers to land big accounts. I got my share of the loot but paid for it with feelings of shame and degradation. I’d die if my children found out, even though I was doing it for their benefit.

Lance was able to go to soccer camp, and did very well. Kristal was now taking piano and voice; little Jen was the darling of the pageant circuit, as well as a star in her dance class. Their trophies lined the mantle in the living room. I’d kept the promise I’d made to them when they were born.

Unfortunately, karma has a way of kicking us in the rear. One of the secretaries left the company and went to work for John’s chief rival. Neither John nor I had noticed just how disgruntled Rosemary had been with her job. We also didn’t know that she knew about our clandestine relationships with some of our customers. How she found out, I’ll never know. John and I were both extremely careful.

Rosemary must have told her new employer about my arrangement with John, and how we were able to land such large contracts. It didn’t take long for the rumor mill to circulate the story all over town. Soon the customers who’d given us their business stopped buying from John; they wouldn’t even return phone calls. At that time we had no idea why it was happening.

There were still a few guys I saw, and since I wasn’t aware of the rumors, I didn’t see any reason to stop. It took a lawsuit to open my eyes. The wife of one of the doctors I’d been sleeping with wanted to divorce her husband and take everything. She’d heard the rumors about me and wondered if I was the reason for her husband’s late nights.

Doing what so many scorned women with money do, she hired a detective to get the goods on her husband. I used to see the doctor in his office after hours. Somehow, the detective had rigged a video camera inside, which caught us on tape. Now the wife was suing for divorce—and I was subpoenaed to be a witness.

“You’re lucky she didn’t sue you,” John said. “I’ve heard of cases like that, where the wife sues the other woman.”

I was furious at the casual way he was taking the lawsuit. My life was going to be exposed in open court, and John acted as though it wasn’t a big deal. “You’re in this, too,” I said.

He sneered. “No, I’m afraid you’re on your own, Jessie. I covered my tracks. I haven’t done anything that’s illegal or could cause a civil action to be brought against me.”

“It was you set me up with all of those men.”

“Dear, I didn’t ‘set you up’ with anyone. I told you that a couple of guys admired you and said they’d like to take you to lunch. You made your own dates, and you decided how you’d handle things.”

“What about the bonus you gave me when I landed an account for us?”

“What bonus? I have no record of a bonus being paid to you. Have you claimed a bonus on your income tax?”

He had me there; I hadn’t claimed the money. I’d kept it, just like any common whore would have. I felt dirty and disgusted with myself. How could I have been so delusional?

When the particulars of the divorce were revealed and my name brought out, people stopped speaking to me. The other soccer moms in the carpool refused to let their children ride with me, and neither would they pick up Lance.

“Mommy, why won’t the guys play with me at school?” he asked.

“Honey, they’re just jealous of you because you’re better than they are.” It was the only excuse my son could possibly understand. How could I tell him that the reason the boys he’d been friends with since he was five couldn’t play with him was because I’d prostituted myself?

Unfortunately, Carson learned about the affair in the worst way possible: He overheard some guys at work making jokes. He’d been on the road a great deal and never suspected what I was doing.

He confronted me with what he’d heard. “Is it true, Jessie?”

I could see the hurt on his face. “I can explain—”

“No, I don’t think you can. There’s no excuse for being unfaithful to me.”

“I only did it to help the kids. They needed things we couldn’t afford.”

“The kids never needed anything we couldn’t afford. You just wanted them to have things that other people in this overpriced neighborhood had. Please don’t make yourself out to be a martyr, Jessica. It’s not like the kids had a fatal illness or needed money for an operation. You whored yourself so you could parade your children in front of others and show them off.”

“I wanted them to have what I never had!”

“Well, I’d say you did a bang-up job of giving it to them. You never had a whore for a mother. That’s what they got.”

“No, they got a mother who supported them in everything they wanted to do!” I screamed. “You have no idea what it’s like to have to sit on the sidelines while other people get all the good things in life.”

“I know what it’s like to have men make nasty jokes about my wife. Jessie, I fooled myself into thinking you really loved me. Now I see that was never the case. I’m tired of it. I’m going to pack and move over to my brother’s place, file for divorce, and end this sham of a marriage.”

Carson shoved past me, went into the bedroom, packed, and left the house. Later, the children asked where Daddy was. It was supposed to be his night at home with them. He always made their favorite dish, spaghetti. Then we’d watch a video together.

“He had an emergency trip,” I said. Using a headache for an excuse, I let the children order a pizza for dinner, then I went to bed.

How would I make it without Carson? He’d been a good provider and a loving father. As I lay thinking these thoughts, something occurred to me. I’d taken a very good man totally for granted. In my obsession to push my children into the limelight, I’d forgotten how to be a wife.

So what if he didn’t send me flowers? When had I ever done anything special for him? I was always too busy with the children to consider Carson’s needs. Now I’d done the unforgivable. What man could love a woman who’d prostituted herself behind his back? Certainly not my husband. I cried myself to sleep.

The next morning I woke to a ringing phone. It was Carson’s brother, Peter. “Well, Jess, I hope you’re satisfied. Carson just left to beat the hell out of that guy you work for.”

“Why?”

“He found out that your boss was the one who was setting you up with men. Seems a secretary who used to work there dates a trucker who works with Carson. He was happy as hell to fill Carson in on everything.”

I hung up the phone, pulled on some clothes, and drove like a maniac to the office. Carson’s truck was in the parking lot. I prayed I wasn’t too late. Carson could kill John in one blow.

Their argument was so loud that I heard it before I opened the door. I’d never heard my husband yell so loudly, or say the words that were pouring from his lips. I rushed inside John’s office to break up the fight and found Carson holding John pinned to the wall.

“Let him go!” I said. “He’s not worth it.”

“Get the hell out of here, Jessie,” Carson ordered me. “This is between him and me. The bastard bought his Porsche by pimping my wife. I think I have a right to bash his brains out!”

“He didn’t make me do anything I wasn’t willing to do,” I said.

“You wanted those men?”

“No, Carson—I wanted their money. I was an idiot, and I’m paying for it now. The kids are going to learn what I did and they’ll hate me as much as you do. No judge in the world would give me custody, and I doubt that I’ll have a penny awarded to me in the financial settlement. Most of all, I’ve hurt a really good man, and I don’t want to hurt him anymore.”

Carson slowly lowered John to his feet. “Get out of here while I talk to my wife,” he said.

“I should call the cops!” John shot back.

“You do that,” I said evenly. “You call the cops—and I’ll call the newspaper and tell them everything, and I’ll mention names. John, I don’t have anything left to lose. Don’t push me too far.”

After he left I let out a long breath. Carson stood glaring at me, as if he was seeing me for the first time and hated what he saw. “Was he one of them?” he asked.

“No. I never slept with John. It was only the customers. This will sound insane, but I didn’t think that what I was doing was any different from typing up a contract. It was just a way to earn extra money. Frankly, I didn’t think you’d care. I mean, you never even sent me flowers or bought me nice things—”

“I’ve always cared about you. Hell, Jess, I’ve worked myself half to death just to give you what you wanted. Lots of times I’ve wanted to do something special for you, but every time something came up. Kristal needed a new dress for a pageant, or Jen needed ballet shoes. Lance needed to go to a better soccer camp. My money would only stretch so far.”

Was he saying that his neglect of me was my fault? “Surely you could have managed something for me, if you’d really loved me enough and wanted to make me happy.”

“Jessie, you’re like a grownup who still believes in Santa Claus, and you’re treating me like I’m the one who forgot to mail your list to him. Baby, I work as hard as any man alive. I want to give you and the kids the world, but I’m not capable of supporting you in the style you demand. Maybe it’s best that we do get divorced. This time, try to land a rich husband.”

“All the rich men I know are married. And they cheat on their wives. Carson, did you ever cheat on me?”

He shook his head. “I had offers, but no. I never did. I always thought of you and the kids and wasn’t even tempted.”

He made me feel two inches tall. There wasn’t anything left for us to say. I had to face the children and talk to them before they learned about me from someone else. Kristal was fourteen and knew about sex, but Lance and Jen were innocents without a clue. Somehow, I’d have to find the words to make them understand.

I left the office with Carson. He got into his truck and drove away. I went home. The children were with their nanny. As soon as I came in the door and put my purse down, she handed me her letter of resignation and asked for her final paycheck.

“I can’t work for you anymore, Mrs. Brooks. Everybody knows what kind of woman you are, and my husband said he’s afraid you’ll try to get me to go into prostitution if I keep working for you. I’m sure you can find someone to watch the kids.”

It felt as though everyone was deserting me. I had to take my final lumps, though. How much would the children hate me? Would they even want to see me again? I could stand to lose anything easier than I could give up my children.

Kristal was the first one I talked to. I explained as delicately as I could that I’d done some very bad things in order to get money.

“Mom, I didn’t need all of those dresses and the lessons,” she said. “I only entered the pageants because it made you happy, and I wanted you to be proud of me. I’m sorry that you did bad things just because of me.”

“No, honey, I didn’t do bad things because of you. It wasn’t your fault, Jen’s, or Lance’s. It wasn’t Dad’s fault. It was mine. All mine. I wanted to give you children things I never had.”

“We’d rather have you and Daddy and our family together than to win another trophy or buy new clothes.”

“I’m so sorry. People are going to say things about me, and it’s going to hurt your feelings, but I hope that someday you’ll forgive me.”

“I forgive you now. You’re my mom and I love you. I’m sorry you did bad things, but in Sunday School they teach us that everybody does bad things sometimes and we’re supposed to forgive them.”

There it was—forgiveness. I’d never learned how to forgive my parents for not having the money to give me the advantages I’d hungered for. Would I have wanted my mother to sell her body, or my father to pimp out his coworkers, just so I could take piano lessons? Absolutely not. Carson was right. I was like a grownup who believed in Santa Claus. I thought I deserved to have everything I wanted, and in getting it, I’d lost everything that mattered.

I wanted to die, I hated myself so much. But would that help anyone except me? It would just be a continuation of what I’d done all of my adult life, thinking of my own needs first.

That night I faced a truth that I hated: I hadn’t done things for my children; everything was for me. I was having a second chance at popularity and adoration through their achievements. They’d never wanted to be anything except kids, but I’d pushed them harder and harder to reach goals that only mattered to me.

Somehow, I made it through that night. The next day I explained to Jen and Lance that Daddy wasn’t going to live with us anymore, and that it was because I’d done something so bad that he couldn’t forgive me. They cried and then went quietly to their rooms. I walked around the house that I’d invested so much of Carson’s hard-earned money into and wondered if there was anything in it that mattered.

I’d sacrificed a life most women would envy. My husband loved me, was good to me, and tried to do everything in his power to make me happy—and I hadn’t cared. I had three healthy, smart, sweet children, and didn’t really know any of them. What was Kristal’s favorite movie? Which action figures did Lance enjoy the most? What flavor ice cream did Jen like? I didn’t know, because I had never let them tell me. Every conversation was about this pageant or that dance competition or the next soccer game.

A few months later I had to testify in the divorce hearing of one of the men I’d slept with. I’d never felt such shame as I felt sitting on the witness stand and admitting to my disgusting relationship with another woman’s husband.

Gossip spread so fast that when I pulled into my driveway, the neighbors were all watching. I wondered if I should have a scarlet letter embroidered on all my clothes. When I went inside, I smelled spaghetti cooking and wondered who was making dinner.  The sitter who watched the kids after school couldn’t thaw an ice cube.

I found Carson in the kitchen making his famous dish. “Hey, hope you don’t mind,” he said.

“Of course I don’t mind. This is still your house. We’re not divorced yet, and you have as much right to be here as I do. Actually, you have more.”

“Rumor was that you had to testify today,” he said.

“It was hell.”

“Jessie, people have done worse for reasons less noble. Not that I approve of what you did, but it wasn’t the unpardonable sin.”

“Are you saying you forgive me?”

“I’m saying I’m trying to. Kristal and I had a long talk. I think we’ve raised a missionary. She could be the next Mother Teresa if we were Catholic. Kristal thinks I should work on forgiving you. I’m willing to give it a try.”

“How can you forgive me? I’m the most selfish woman in town. I’ve been a lousy wife and mother, and I’ve broken up homes without giving a second thought to the pain I’d cause the wives of those men. I can’t forgive myself.”

“Then maybe we should all work on it together. As a family.”

I didn’t understand what he was saying. Was he trying to tell me he’d consider coming back? No. That couldn’t be. “What is it you want to do?”

Carson set the spoon down, took one of my hands and held it. “I’m not over what happened, Jessie. It might take a long time, but one thing is for sure: If I’m ever going to get over it, I have to start somewhere. I’d like to move back into the house. We’ll have separate rooms. I can fix up that room we were planning to make into a den. Maybe, in time, we can find our way back to each other.”

I wanted so much to kiss him. I’d never known a hero before, a white knight who rescued damsels in distress. But here was this man, whom I had shattered, offering to forgive me and to work things out. I’d taken him for granted once, but I’d never make that mistake again.

“I do have a few conditions,” he said.

Okay, I thought, here it comes.

“Kristal doesn’t want to do any more pageants. She’d rather work at the recreation center for underprivileged kids. Jen liked her old dance school better, and I can afford it. Lance wants to stick with soccer, but he doesn’t want to go to camp anymore, unless it’s one he picks for himself.”

“That’s really not much to ask.”

Carson smiled. “Jessie, I think you’re finally growing up.”

He was right. I grew up in those months after my shameful exposure. In time, people stopped staring at me, and the other kids stopped teasing my children. It took a lot of work on Carson’s part, but he forgave me. Now we share a marriage that is the most precious thing in my life.

Not many women can say that it took them sixteen years to fall in love with their husbands; not many would want to. But it took me that long because I wasn’t seeing the blessings right before my eyes. I see them now, and I’ll never take them for granted again. I’ve finally forgiven myself, thanks to the love of my family.

Leave a Reply