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Monday Puzzler > Monday Puzzler May 7: A Little Bit Funny, A Little Bit Poignant

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message 1: by Janga (new)

Janga | 1070 comments Mod
I always find it interesting to see how an author wins a reader's sympathy for the pov character and establishes that the "villain" is a jerk. I like the blend of humor and hurt in this one. It can't be easy to make the end of a marriage funny.

Jerk Husband was grinning broadly. “God, you’re right about that. I have a hard time keeping track of so many things. In fact, there’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about for weeks, and I just keep forgetting about it.”

I sat up straighter, smiled, and tried the dutiful schoolgirl look. “Well, here we are, and you’ve obviously remembered, so shoot.”

“Yeah. Well it’s actually the main reason I came back. I wanted to tell you when the girls weren’t here.”

“Weren’t here?”

“Yes. I didn’t want them to see me pack.”

I was still smiling. “Pack what?”

“My clothes. And my books. And everything. I’m leaving you, Heroine. I’m very sorry. This is not about you, really. You’ve been a wonderful wife, but I’ve met someone else and I want to be with her. So, I’ll just pack up my things and go.”

He said this all very calmly. He might have been explaining why the little referee man threw up one of those flag-thingies during a football game. I stared at him, trying to latch on to something that actually made sense.

“You’re packing?” I repeated. I was looking at him. Then I looked at Cat, still sitting patiently beside me. She offered no suggestions, so I looked back at Jerk Husband.

“Your clothes?” Jerk Husband cleared his throat and spoke very slowly. “Yes, Heroine, I’m packing my clothes and moving out. I want a divorce.” Then he stood up and walked out of the kitchen.

I looked at Cat again. She yawned. I followed my husband out of the kitchen and grabbed his arm as he started up the stairs. “Divorce? What are you talking about? Who did you meet? Where did you meet anybody? Except for your business trips, we go everywhere together. How could you meet someone?”

Jerk Husband ran his hand through his hair. “It’s a woman at work, Heroine. Dominique.”

“What?” Dominique? Was he crazy? There are no real women named Dominique.

“You met her,” Jerk Husband continued. “At the Christmas party. She transferred down from Boston.”

Wait. Yes. Now I remembered. Her name was Dominique because she was from France, where the name Dominique is not outrageously pretentious, but actually as common as Nicole or Emily or Shanique. She was also about fourteen years old and roughly the size and shape of a bamboo shoot. I remembered her, quite plainly, because at the Christmas party she was wearing an amazing winter-white suit that I had tried on at Nordstrom, but decided against buying because it made my butt look too big, with very chi-chi red alligator pumps.

“Dominique with the accent? And the blonde hair? And red shoes? Are you kidding? You’re old enough to be her grandfather.”

Jerk Husband looked insulted. “She’s thirty, Heroine.”
“Thirty? You’re leaving me for a thirty-year-old bimbo?”
erk Husband pulled away from me and started up the stairs. “She is anything but a bimbo. She has an MBA from Georgetown. She actually interned at the White House.”

“So did Monica Lewinsky,” I yelled. “You can’t leave me.”

Jerk Husband turned on the stairs and looked down at me. Literally and figuratively. “I am leaving you, Heroine. I’ve already spoken to a lawyer. You have a great deal of your own money, but I will be very generous. I’m not going to be a jerk about this. You can have the house and kids.”

He turned back and marched upstairs. I stood there, watching him, feeling like a total loser. Then I screamed up to him at the top of my lungs.

“But I don’t want the house and kids.”

When Jerk Husband came back downstairs twenty-seven minutes later, I was calm. I was rational. I was the perfect Model of Wife.

Things happened in a marriage. I knew that. And since I’d once been in therapy for eighty-three days, I knew that I could be a challenging person to live with.

I knew that there could be issues in a marriage that go completely unnoticed by a preoccupied spouse. I watch enough Dr. Phil to realize that things may have been going on that I was totally unaware of. Like that woman who didn’t know that her husband was actually a cross-dresser until she threatened to sue her dry cleaner for all her missing clothes, and the poor guy had to confess. So, it’s possible that there had been a blip on the radar that I didn’t pick up on. I’m a big person. I can admit my mistakes. And I was perfectly willing to do whatever it took to get my marriage back to where I thought it was, say, oh, two hours before.

Jerk Husband was carrying all three of his suitcases, and he dumped them in the foyer. I opened my mouth to speak, but he went back upstairs. I waited. He came back down, this time with my suitcases. I narrowed my eyes. Did he really have that many clothes? “Those are mine,” I said, trying to keep a possessive snarl out of my voice.

He nodded. “I know. I’ll bring them back tonight.”

“You’re coming back tonight?” Was I surprised? Confused? Pleased?

“Well, yes. I think we should tell the girls together.”

“Together? You want us to tell our daughters together that you’re moving out to be with another woman?”

Jerk Husband looked uncomfortable for the first time. “Yes. Well, I think they need to hear the explanation from both of us.”

“But both of us aren’t leaving,” I pointed out. “You’re leaving. You’re leaving because you’re screwing a woman almost half your age. How can I possibly explain that when I don’t even understand it myself?” See, I was calm. No screeching.

He cleared his throat. “Now, Heroine, I can’t take the total responsibility for this.”

That may have been the wrong thing for him to say. “And how, exactly, am I at fault?”

“Well, let’s face it. Our marriage hasn’t been the same these past few months.”

I think at that moment I forgot all about being a big person. The entire un-noticed-blip-that-I-should-have-seen theory went out the window. “You’re right. Apparently, for these past few months, one of us has been unfaithful.”

“Well, yes, but before that, things were, ah, you know…” He looked at me hopefully. Like I was actually going to let him off the hook.

“Before that you and I spent a week in Aruba where we had monkey sex for six days in a row. Before that we talked about your coming with me to San Francisco this summer. We’ve been planning your sister’s surprise fiftieth birthday party, which, I believe, is still scheduled for three weeks from next Saturday.” I could feel the blood rising, and I fought the urge to scream. Had he actually thought I should admit mistakes? Was he crazy??? “Two months ago you bought me a diamond necklace for our twentieth wedding anniversary.” I took a few deep breaths. “So tell me. When, in the past few months, was I supposed to figure out that things were, ah…you know?”

Jerk Husband shook his head sadly. “I’m going to take these out to the car.” He picked up some suitcases and went out the front door. I sat down on our hall bench, gripping my knees with my sweaty palms. My eyes came to rest on our wonderfully quaint umbrella stand, an antique made to look like an elephant’s foot, and I thought briefly about running him through with my Monet umbrella from the New York Metropolitan Museum Store. I probably couldn’t kill him with an umbrella, unless he agreed to lie down while I repeatedly stabbed him in the eye with it. My eyes moved to the cute bulldog door-stop. Also antique. Cast iron. Weighed a frigging ton. Capable of inflicting severe, possibly fatal damage. It was so heavy, one good swing would probably do it. It was so heavy, however, I probably couldn’t lift it high enough to hit him anywhere but on the foot.

He came back in to get the rest of his suitcases. My suitcases, actually. Could I call the police and report missing luggage? Would they actually arrest him for it? Now, there was a plan. What foreign woman, probably fishing for a green card or something similar, would want to associate with a convicted tote-bag felon? Why should I go to jail for murder when I could just as easily send him to jail for petty theft?

“I’m going now,” Jerk Husband said.

I had been so lost in the vision of my apparently soon-to-be-ex-husband in an orange jumpsuit that I didn’t hear him come back in. He was looking down at me, actually smiling. “I’ll be back around dinner. I’ll talk to the girls.”

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“To Dominique’s,” he said easily. “She has a condo in Hoboken, so I’ll be close to work. And the girls, of course. I’ll have my lawyer call your lawyer.”

“I don’t have a lawyer,” I whined.

“You’ll find somebody competent. Ask around. I’m not worried, Heroine. I’m sure you’ll be fine.” Jerk Husband patted me on the head. Really. Can you believe it? Then he walked out the door.

I was so angry. Really outraged that he could so serenely walk out and leave behind a life and children and a dog and a cat. And I felt betrayed. I mean, there were vows taken. Love. Honor. Cherish. Till death. I wasn’t dead yet.
I was also highly insulted that a person such as myself, attractive, intelligent, successful, respected in the community, great mother and one hell of a cook, could be so easily be replaced by a woman who was merely blond, foreign, and who may or not have blown the president.

What I did not feel, and I only realized it long afterward, was broken-hearted.

message 2: by Leigh-Ayn (new)

Leigh-Ayn | 1207 comments oooh!!! I hope he gets a big fat slap upside the head! I hate cheaters! I know that life happens but BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
can't wait for the reveal so I can see what happens next!

PS favourite line is "But i don't want the house or the kids!" haha

message 3: by Dls (new)

Dls | 2102 comments Mod
Great scene! I definitely haven’t read this one.

message 4: by Susan (new)

Susan (susaninaz) | 1044 comments She sounds kinda self-involved, but I symapthize with her anyway. Who is the Jerk Husband and does he get sued into oblivion?

message 5: by Irisheyes (new)

Irisheyes | 896 comments I don't think I've read this, but I've been wrong about that before! :)

message 6: by Manda (new)

Manda Collins (manda_collins) | 1925 comments Mod
The style seems familiar but I don't recognize the story.

message 7: by Nicole (new)

Nicole (nikanne) | 222 comments Definitely haven’t read this one. Very curious as to what happens next!

message 8: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Hill | 487 comments Ooooo - I for sure have not read this

message 9: by Janga (new)

Janga | 1070 comments Mod
Sorry, y'all! I forgot to post the reveal last night. The puzzler is from Better Off Without Him by Dee Ernst. I found it laugh-out-loud funny. The heroine is a successful romance writer, so that was part of the fun.

message 10: by Manda (new)

Manda Collins (manda_collins) | 1925 comments Mod
I've never read her, but the voice sounded a little like early SEP to me. Fun rec, Janga :)

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