FLYING SOLO by Leslie Ann Bosher
At this very moment, all over the world, someone is taking a lover, having an affair. Someone is cheating or being cheated on. Someone is lying to a spouse. Someone is walking out on a relationship. Today, I’ll join that loathsome club.
Waking early was a struggle, a cowardly way to leave. To call it quits and skulk away from Sloane while he slept. I knew the distance separating me from my husband would never again be measured in inches. It would be in miles. The sun rising over the Thames would be my only witness.
A faint sound, like the squeaky prayer of a mouse caught in a trap, slipped from my lips as I wrapped my chenille robe around me to ward off the London chill and tip-toed toward the bedroom door.
The rasp of Sloane’s whiskey-laced breathing, rhythmic as a metronome, edged under the frame and faded as I felt my way through familiar spaces toward our guest suite. Nightlights cast tiny white halos on the speckled marble, cold to my bare feet.
I turned on the dresser lamp and leaned toward the merciless mirror to see eyes swollen with pillows of angry tears. Tears that had refused to fall yesterday when I heard the news. The news that galvanized my decision to end my marriage.
I bridled at the memory and closed my lids, trying to bring down the shutters on my life, to stem the tidal flow of recrimination. Silently, I confessed my selfish weakness. He wooed me with tokens. Coins of pleasure for which I willingly traded myself. I was hungry for him and let passion devour me whole.
But, the reality was distrust lived inside my body like a parasite. It settled in my chest and sucked nourishment until all that remained was a speck of a woman I had no intention of becoming – a fifty-three-year-old divorcée.
Grace’s phone call sealed my fate.
“Meredith, you know Jeffrey and I think the world of you. We’ve been friends for a long time.” She drew a deep breath, the kind one takes when unsure how to proceed. “But, I can’t sugar coat this.”
“Grace, I don’t understand,” my voice quivered. “You’re frightening me. What happened?”
“Minutes after I promised Jeffrey I wouldn’t tell you, I knew I’d break my word. Sloane and his company are being sued for sexual harassment by a twenty-something intern. Word on the street, according to Jeffrey, is other victims may join the chorus. I’m so sorry to be the one to tell you; but I hope, God forbid, if the shoe was on the other foot, you’d do the same for me.”
“You can’t be serious? There must be some mistake,” I stammered, trying to make sense of what she was saying. “Surely you misunderstood Jeffrey. Sloane’s not a . . .”
“Sweetie, I wish for your sake I was wrong. I really do. I can’t imagine what a shock this must be.”
“Grace, I’m numb all over. Sloane’s been under a lot of stress, but this . . . this is a nightmare.” I wiggled the fingers on my free hand to ease the tingling sensation. “Look, I’ve got to call you back. I just can’t think now.”
“Anytime, but please don’t let on I told you. You know you have my heartfelt sympathy.”
I hung up and crumpled into the sofa as though my entire body had been injected with Novocain. Motionless, Grace’s kind words, “heartfelt sympathy,” plowed through my head. Sympathy. What good is sympathy? I don’t need pity. I need a revolver. With a good solicitor and a plea of temporary insanity, I’ll get off scot-free. Bloody England and her restrictive gun laws.
I stared out the wall-to-wall windows to the horizon, in search of something to anchor me, something positive to grasp. Instead, I conjured a vision of Sloane pawing another woman’s breasts. A nest of snakes squirmed inside my stomach.
Focus, Meredith. If you had any doubts about leaving, this has to be the last straw. Book a flight. Call Lisa. Clothes—get packed. Hide the suitcase in the guest room. Write a letter of explanation. When Sloane comes home tonight, everything must seem normal. No yelling. No accusations. Just short, one-way, meaningless drivel until bedtime. Oh, hell, I’ll have to sleep with him…one last time.
That nauseating thought broke my momentary paralysis. Sprinting to the study, I picked up my iPad and frantically tapped out travel arrangements. Then, with a head buffeted by fury, I removed a sheet of engraved stationery and a pen from the desk drawer. The Mont Blanc idled in my fingers until I calmed and found my rhythm. No rants. No preaching. Just goodbye.
Our days of arguing are over. I am leaving with the belief I’ve done all I can to nurture and support you through corporate ups and downs, turning a blind eye to your lies and excessive drinking. I’m not taking memories from this house. I’m taking scars.
How long did you think you could conceal the sexual harassment charges from me? People talk, rumors spread, truths are shared. Did you think gossip would elude me forever?
In light of what I’ve just learned, and as a matter of conscience, I refuse to provide support for a man accused of sexual impropriety. Your actions, if found, demean all women.
During our years together, you have tested my dedication, but this, Mr. Winthrop, is the end of the road.
Surprised at how effortlessly those stinging words had come to me, I flicked the pen back in the drawer and headed to the shower, my T-shirt moist with anger. By the time the water heated, I’d hidden my letter in the guest room and planned how to spring it on Lisa that I’d be on the first flight in the morning, arriving in Charlotte around noon.
Jittery, I stretched out on the bed to collect my thoughts before calling my ‘go-to’. After thirty years of friendship, she had the right to speak freely with no pushback. Despite being tigresses of different stripes, our hearts remained in sync as our lives moved in different directions. Sure, there were a few ghosts lingering in the shadows to remind us of unresolved issues, but nothing strong enough to break our bond – not even her opinion of Sloane.
Now, I quaked at the thought as I speed-dialed Lisa. A five-hour time difference. She and James might be out for the day. Worse, they could be traveling. Pick up. Pick up.
“You’re there. Thank God. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to use my spare key to let myself in tomorrow.”
“What do you mean…tomorrow? You’re in London, aren’t you?”
“Yes, but not for long.”
“You haven’t lost your job, have you?” Lisa’s voice lowered as if she sensed something was seriously wrong.
“No, I have a week off.”
I drummed my fingernails on the nightstand in a steady rhythm – click, click, click – until I summoned the courage to spill the nasty beans. “Brace yourself….”
“Holy shit, Meredith, Sloane is many things . . .” She stopped as if searching for kinder words, not wanting to add more stress to my life. “You know, he’s a tiny bit arrogant, childishly spoiled, and overly demanding. I never could understand how you put up with that, but a groper? No way.”
“I know he’s not your favorite, but we did have some good times. He was loving and generous to a fault.”
“Yea, generous with your money.”
“Oh, please, not today. I’m up to my eyeballs in devastation. Did I tell you he’s drinking again?”
“No, but I’m not surprised.”
“Lisa, I’ve been responsible for the safety and comfort of passengers on United’s flights for more than two decades, yet I can’t control one damn thing in my own life. I’m so tired. Whether he’s guilty or not, I’m leaving.”
“Say no more. Just make sure you’re on that plane. We’ll sort out everything later. Get some rest, and for God’s sake, be careful.”
Satisfied my checklist was complete – a packed bag under the guest room bed, get-away clothes hung in the closet – I switched off my emotions, eased into autopilot, and waited for my husband to come home. Dawn would arrive soon enough.