For the past 3 years, December 23rd had been Christmas Day. We opened our carefully wrapped presents from under their tree and cooked a big dinner. It didn’t matter that it was just two of us. The leftovers were always welcome on Christmas Day. If his wife noticed that he was always away on that date, she never said anything. On the morning of the 23rd, when I woke up in his arms and said ‘Merry Christmas sweetheart’, I really believed it was Christmas day.
This year felt different. First of all, he hadn’t wanted to spend the night. It took a few tearful phone calls for him to tell his wife that actually his business trip wasn’t cancelled after all.
His present wasn’t thoughtful. It was a piece of jewelery. When we first started dating, we had a long conversation about how bad a present jewelery usually was. ‘Pimps and bad husbands’ , I remember he said. He had forgotten or apparently didn’t care anymore.
I had made him a memory book, with quotes and inside jokes and pictures and movie tickets and hotel receipts. He looked irritated when he flipped through it. ‘Honestly, Remi, what do you want me to do with this? I obviously can’t take it home or to work…and you’ve kept all this stuff?’, he said turning pages faster and shaking his head.
I tried to stop myself from crying. He really hated it when I cried and it was Christmas Day. We were supposed to be happy.
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t think’, I said. He turned to me and started to say something, then got up and walked to the bathroom.
I was finding it hard to maintain the fantasy of Christmas.
‘What should we make?’
It was a game we played. Our first Christmas together, he kept requesting things he knew I didn’t have and I kept saying no until we ended up in the kitchen play fighting with food. It had become a tradition. He looked at me with disdain and waved his phone at me. ‘I have to do some work stuff, I’ll join you in the kitchen in a bit’. I forced a smile and put on a bathrobe. I was supposed to be the easy one. Part of being an escape was never nagging , always listening . In the kitchen, I let my tears fall.
He spends December 23rd with her every year. I don’t know how long it’s been happening , but I found out last year. Last year with a text message. How extremely cliché to find out about your husbands mistress via text. ‘Fake Christmas has never been realer to me, I love you’. My stoic husband that hardly smiled and reserved emotional displays for birthdays and valentines was giving out his emotion just because. On our Christmas Day when our kids opened their presents, he looked lost and happy. He ate little, spoke little and smiled a lot into his phone. It felt like I was being stabbed repeatedly, it took everything I had not to break down.
A year is a long time. I’ve always been a person that avoids acting on impulse, so i didnt confront him. I planned to confront him eventually but hoped he would stop and I wouldnt have to deal with it. I also didn’t feel ready to face the possibility of my marriage ending. I waited, pretending that everything was fine and he continued. He covered his tracks a little less carefully, sometimes mixing up his. I started to lose the will to fight. I couldn’t see how I would trust him again. He had already told me so many lies. He also started to seem a bit tired , I guess the honeymoon was ending but I could have warned him that would happen.
A year is enough time to prepare. Rent a new house for me and the kids, sever our joint accounts, hire a lawyer. I’ve never been that dramatic person that does things like leave her husband on Christmas Day , but it felt right somehow. He already had Christmas Day , so it felt right to change the 25th to something more real for him and what’s realer than divorce?
He had known for a few months that it had to end but she made it difficult. There were some days when it was like it was at the start. Fun. An escape from home. But lately, it was getting weary, like being married twice. She never let her guard down, she was always happy and perfect, keen to keep her part as ‘the perfect woman’. This Christmas was the final story. Everything about it that had seemed sweet before just exhausted him now .He was tired of living a double Life. He had no energy for it anymore.
On Christmas morning, he woke up alone. His house was empty. His presents were under the tree and his wife had left a note. It had her lawyer’s number .
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